Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Doulas

Posted on: August 9, 2009

Yesterday someone asked me for my opinion on Doulas, so here goes.

 www.doula.org.uk defines a doula as:

“Doula” (pronounced “doola”) is a Greek word meaning “woman servant or caregiver”. It now refers to an experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth. A doula believes in “mothering the mother” – enabling a woman to have the most satisfying and empowered time that she can during pregnancy, birth and the early days as a new mum. This type of support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience.

It is tricky to define my feelings about Doulas.  I guess I actually started out as a doula, as I attended the births of several friends in the context of being a birth supporter (although the term doula was not in common usage then). I absolutely feel that the best person to support a labouring woman is another woman who has given birth herself (that said I have met some excellent male midwives … hello Mark and Kevin and I also know some fantastic midwives who haven’t had children themselves). My personal experience with doulas is limited, but has generally been positive – as a midwife I am always happy that a woman is supported by those she feels comfortable with and indeed it can be very helpful to me, however I am also aware that some midwives have had negative experiences of doulas who perhaps have been in conflict with the midwife (and I am sure that some midwives may view doulas less favourably than me).

I find myself slightly uncomfortable with the doulas role partly I guess because I feel that if midwives are doing a good job the midwife would be supporting her client; but also I am concerned that we may be using “untrained” support i.e. doulas or maternity care assistants in place of midwives and this may not be appropriate.  I am increasingly hearing that the role of maternity care assistants (MCAs) is being extended – again, this evokes completely mixed feelings as I know MCAs can be excellent and they should not attempt anything that they have not been trained for, but they are not midwives and have not taken a three year training course.  Are they being used as cheap labour?  Will they miss vital signs and symptoms because of their lack of training?  I don’t know.

There are many positives to employing a doula, for example they will help with domestic duties for example cooking, shopping etc and this may well be beneficial, they are certainly cheaper than hiring an Independent Midwife like myself but their role is different.  For a woman planning a NHS hospital birth where the midwife may well also be caring for other clients it is a way of ensuring that the woman is not left alone and this will be supportive for the woman and her partner.

So I guess my jury is out on this one – I guess it is down to your personal circumstances.

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3 Responses to "Doulas"

[…] This post was Twitted by MidwifeValerie […]

I am enjoying your blog, a new reader here-thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am a (fairly new) doula and try my very best to be supportive of the mama and the midwife. I was trained to know my role as support person, loving and kind (which seems to come naturally instead of with the training LOL) and give respect to the mama, birthing family AND the caregiver. I hope that you come across doulas that do feel this way and never one that tries to act as the midwife (of course, unless they are the midwife! smile) . I feel really confident in assisting the midwife, cooking, cleaning, gathering supplies, being the gofer and just over-all helper and do what is needed at each birth. Blessings to you and shine on!!

Hey,
I just wanted you to know that I am starting a blog/web page here and that I really enjoyed browsing your site. I’am a doula, but the name kind of gets in the way. I just found myself being invited to births and therefore in the role of providing emotional support for my friends and later clients. Sometimes I wish I were a midwife and other times I think it is great to be able to leave the midwifery to those skilled in that. I think our roles are different even if sometimes they are similar, since as you said, good midwives do provide good support. I hate to feel like I am intruding into someone’s profession and so I always ask my clients to check with there care provider so that there isn’t a conflict. So far it has worked out beautifully and the midwives I’ve worked with have felt respected and even helped by me.

That said I must add that unfortunetly, I’ve had many clients who felt completely unsupported during their first births, by the hospital team, so with the second they do the research and find a doula to ensure they have the support they need. Here in Catalonia it is pretty common to hear women talk about their traumatic birth experiences within “normal” hospital birth procedures. But thankfully the story is changing and their are really lovely caring nurse-midwives doing excellent work.

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