1. What is a birth doula? What kind of services do they offer?
The word doula comes from the Greek word meaning “woman’s servant” or “slave.” The modern day doula is someone who provides emotional and physical support to a woman and her family during the childbearing year including labour and postpartum.
A doula’s services include 2-3 prenatal appointments during which a relationship of trust and understanding is formed. During these consultations, the mother and her partner are encouraged to ask questions about pregnancy, express their fears and or concerns about the labour, and make decisions about the type of birth they would like to experience. The doula will also offer unbiased information regarding the risks and benefits of the procedures, interventions and possible complications during pregnancy, labour and delivery.
Doula’s are on call a few weeks before the due date, meaning that they become available for support 24 hours a day. Once the mother starts experiencing positive signs of labour, her doula will meet with the mom and her birth partner at their home or chosen birth place. During the labour the doula may provide massage, counter pressure, aromatherapy, and homeopathy, breathing exercise, labour positions, emotional support and encouragement. Doulas also facilitate communication between the labouring woman / couple and the birthing staff to ensure that they have all the information needed to make confident and informed decisions about their birth. Above all, the doula is present to help the labouring woman and birth partner feel amazing and empowered by their birth experience. In some cases the mom has no birth partner, in which case the doula becomes her primary support.
The doula also visits the family in the week following the delivery to provide post-partum support including breast feeding support, baby care tips, and referrals to community services.
2. What are the benefits of hiring a doula?
The support provided by the birth doula results in improved outcomes for both mother and baby. Having a doula present during birth:
- significantly decreases the rates of C-section
- shortens the length of labour
- decreases the risk of the newborn baby being admitted to special care
- decreases the risk of being unhappy with the birth experience
3. What inspired you to become a doula?
My mother was a practicing midwife and, as a result, I spent my childhood regularly witnessing the beauty and power of natural childbirth. When I became pregnant with my first child I was fascinated by my pregnancy and upcoming birth. I was fortunate enough to have a natural birth with my mother as my doula. She even caught my baby! I felt incredibly empowered and enlightened by my birth experience. When I started talking to other women and asking others about their own experiences I was surprised at just how much birth trauma exists in our society. From that moment on I knew that I wanted to become a birth worker.
4. What training does a doula have?
To become certified each doula must take a birth doula course. The course covers everything from the study of anatomy and the physical process of birth, to nutritional advice, specialized massage techniques and support of clients through VBACS (vaginal births after C-section). Additionally, the doula apprentice must attend four certifying births following which both the mother and / or the attending doctor or midwife write written reviews of the doula’s work. The apprentice must also write a final exam.
5. What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
Midwives provide the clinical and medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. Doulas shine when it comes to non-clinical support. We connect, educate, nourish, encourage, guide, hold space and love.
6. Are doulas covered by medical care?
Doula services are not covered by provincial health care plans. However, a few private insurance plans are starting to offer coverage. Many doulas offer payment plans or sliding scale services to ensure that their services are accessible to those of all income levels. It is important that we value and support doulas to do what they love most, make a positive impact upon our birth culture and support women to become powerful labouring women and empowered mothers.
Julia is a Birth Doula, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Registered Yoga Teacher, and graduate of Trent University. A perpetual learner, Julia spends her down time reading and researching all things birth, health and wellness. Julia is also the mother of two beautiful children.
Learn more about Julia at Julia Davie Nutrition.