What is a Doula?

Doula; the Wisdom Keeper of The Timeless Art of Birth


Since the beginning of times, women have been supporting women during birth. This is evident throughout history from ancient civilisations all over the world. The word “Doula” comes from the Greek word ‘Δούλα’ which translates to ‘a woman who serves’. Doula is a professional with training and experience around birth who can provide support, before, during and just after birth in a practical, emotional and educational way.


What to Expect When You Hire a Doula

Before Birth

Throughout pregnancy, a doula will provide a continuous support with information, practical advice and emotional encouragement for anything pregnancy related. She is there to take the role of a friend, a sister, a mother and enhance the link of communication between you and your doctor. What makes the relationship special is the trust built throughout gestation, which is absolutely necessary for someone who will share with you a very intimate event such as birth.

During Labour

Your Doula is just a call away when your labour starts. She will come to your house at the initial stages of labour and stay with you until your baby is born and ‘hold space’ for you, acting as a source of continuous reassurance during labour. She provides comfort measures (such as breathing, massage, movement, positioning) in a very gentle but powerful way. In contrast to midwives who may need to change shifts, she is constantly there with you riding the waves of birth.

After Birth

Postnatal doulas can support you with breastfeeding and take care of anything that requires attention at your home; cooking, holding the baby so you can take a bath, playing with other young children, can all be carried out by her. Having a postnatal doula makes it’s easier to get some time with yourself and your baby without having to worry about other things that need your attention.

What Doulas are NOT for

It is important to say that a Doula is not medically trained (she will not perform any clinical examinations or diagnosis) and she does not substitute your doctor, midwife or partner. She is not biased and will not judge you for the decisions that you will make for your birth

Doulas and Dads

It is very important for the father to be present at birth and no one can substitute his role. However, birth can also be overwhelming for him and having another person who has knowledge about birth and is aware of how things work in the hospitals is very useful. A doula can hold space and support you both so your experience of birth is memorable, empowering and connecting. Doulas and dads make a very powerful birth support team together!

Evidence for Having a Doula

It has been shown that women having a continuous support from a doula before and during birth have a more positive overall experience. They are more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and C-sections. In addition, labours are shorter by about 40 minutes and babies are less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth (2012, Hodnett et al) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23076901)

Why Doulas are Effective

The most important reason that a Doulas presence is so helpful during birth is because of the conditions of the birthing environment today. Since birth has moved from home into the clinics and hospitals the environment has become ‘harsh’ for the requirements of the birthing process. Women are more easily subjected to intervention and routine procedures, there is lack of privacy, bright lighting, strangers coming in and out of the room and needles. A woman giving birth is at a very vulnerable state and these conditions are very likely to slow down labour and decrease self-confidence while increasing the risk of intervention. A doula will ‘protect’ the space of the labouring woman and support the requirements of birth, filtering out anything, which is potentially interfering.

In addition to increasing self-confidence, the continuous support and comfort measures act as natural pain relief so that labour is more likely to proceed naturally.

How to Choose a Doula and Where

Your Doula will be present at a very intimate moment of your life so it is very important to feel a connection with her and choose her based on how you feel in her presence. Most Doulas love what they do and have the knowledge and experience required to support you. Your choice is simply a matter of who do you want to share this experience with, and some practicalities.

For a list of doulas in Cyprus click here.

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