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Children are a great blessing and a tremendous asset.
Nevertheless, parents-to-be are often overwhelmed during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period: What is in store for you anyway? Could you handle it all?
After all, you will soon be responsible for a little person who is completely dependent on you for all his needs and wishes! What do you need so that the little person is well equipped in the first days of life?
What needs to be packed into the hospital bag? At some point labor, and when to go to the hospital? The doula is there for all questions. She supports the expectant mother in everything non-medical.
What Is A Doula?
A doula has no medical training, so she cannot replace the midwife, nor the doctor. But she can still do a lot. The term doula is derived from the Greek douleia. It means “serving the woman”.
And that’s exactly where the doula’s job lies: she takes care of everything that stresses the woman in some way. From back massages to good tips and advice to holding hands and dabbing sweat from the forehead, the doula is there for it all.
And not just during the birth, but also beforehand. You will learn from your doula when to pack your hospital bag for the birth, what needs to go in it and what else you should prepare.
The doula can only work if the mother-to-be can completely let go and relax in her presence. A close relationship of trust must therefore be established during the pregnancy.
Getting To Know You And The Doula During Pregnancy
First of all, you should know how the doula works.
If you are pregnant and have decided that a doula should accompany you through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, you can find a doula in your area through a search engine of your choice.
Just type in “doula + city” and you should find doulas working in your area. Your midwife may also be able to recommend someone or your gynecologist.
Or you know a woman who has also been accompanied by a doula. No matter how you find your doula: The first contact is made via email or telephone.
You make an appointment and get to know each other for two or three hours in a comfortable atmosphere at your home or at a place of your choice. The chemistry between you and the doula must be right.
You must be on the same wavelength, and of course, the doula will also ask about your ideas and wishes, your questions and needs.
She will want to know if you want to give birth in the clinic or at home, if you have a regular midwife and how the births of your older children went. These questions are not asked out of curiosity.
The doula simply wants to know what kind of birth support you expect from her. In addition, she can also advise you on how to have a pain-free birth.
More Than A Few Appointments: On-call
It is not only about your private wishes and ideas, but the doula will also answer general questions.
What do you need to pack in your hospital bag for the birth? What can you do about back pain? What do you need for the initial equipment?
A doula ideally has a lot of experience, has already attended several births, and accordingly has a large repertoire of tips and tricks at her disposal. During your pregnancy, you will probably meet a few times.
Exactly how often depends on how your doula works. By the way, your doula will also find out the expected date of birth very quickly.
This is not about when you need to pack your hospital bag for the birth, but about timing. A doula only ever cares for one pregnant woman, never several.
If you have any questions, feel unwell or go into labor, simply call her and she will be with you as soon as possible.
The Doula: Your Personal Support
Your hospital bag for the birth is packed, you are in labor, and now you call your doula. Together you drive to the hospital. Your doula does not leave your side. She will support you exactly as you need it.
And now it doesn’t matter what you discussed during the pregnancy. Your doula will make sure that you are always well, that you feel comfortable and that you get rid of any insecurities.
She will also respond to your wishes spontaneously. Do you feel like climbing stairs in early labor? Your doula will climb stairs with you. And it doesn’t matter how many kilometers and how many meters of altitude you climb – your doula stays with you.
Hours of back massages are as much a part of the job description as hand-holding and motivation. Your doula will reassure you again and again how well you are doing and strengthen you mentally.
In the delivery room, the midwives and doctors in the hospital have to end their shifts, change shifts and take breaks. But this does not exist for your doula.
Once you go to the hospital with your hospital bag for the birth, the doula stays with you.
Even if you struggle for 30 hours or more, your doula is by your side. She strengthens you and helps you to get through the birth as comfortably and confidently as possible.
But the service is not over when your child is born. Your doula will also take care of you during the postpartum period. She will unpack your hospital bag from the birth at home, if necessary. She will also be at your side during the first days with your child at home.
Because the on-call duty applies again then. And of course, your doula will talk to you about the birth. You may have questions, feel insecure, or be overwhelmed by the experience (and the pain you may have endured).
Your doula will work through all of this with you. She will help you fill in gaps in your memory, if necessary. She will also be there for you in the postpartum period until you have physically and mentally process the birth experience.
Birth Support By A Doula Comes With Costs
Doula is a profession that requires training. It is not free. And of course, the women who work as doulas do not accompany other women on a volunteer basis. It’s not a job you do on the side.
Because a birth sometimes takes a long time, and being on call makes it impossible to have another job. Doulas are full-time doulas by vocation.
You can expect to pay between 400 and 1,000 euros for a doula to accompany you. The health insurance companies do not cover these costs.
For women in need and single mothers, there is the possibility to register with an association in which doulas are professionally organized. The DiD (Doulas in Germany), for example, has possibilities to organize the assumption of costs.
Does A Birth Have To Take Place In A Hospital?
A doula not only accompanies births in the hospital but also in the birth center or at home. You decide where your child will be born. The doula is there for you and strengthens you. However, she does not replace a midwife.
A doula has no medical training and is not allowed to accompany a birth alone. Only a midwife is allowed to do that. Not even doctors are allowed to do this – they have to consult a midwife.
Ideally, your doula should get to know your midwife. However, due to time constraints, this usually only works if you organize your own midwife and are not dependent on shift work at the hospital.
By the way, home birth or a birth in a birth center does not make packing a hospital bag for the birth unnecessary. Since you never know exactly what else is going to happen, you should be ready.
Because a responsible midwife will always take you to the hospital, if necessary, to get through medical emergencies with you in the best possible way. So you should always pack your hospital bag.
The doula will tell you what you should have in your hospital bag for the birth.
If you are planning a home birth or want to be with your midwife at the birth center, call your doula when you call your midwife.
If you are unsure when exactly you need support, your doula will be there for you before you call your midwife.
Studies Clearly Show The Benefits Of A Doula
Of course, the doula does more than just explain the clinic bag for the birth. Why exactly is a doula important? The profession hasn’t been around too long.
In fact, the doula comes from the United States and goes back to the research and studies of two doctors. Dr. Marshall Klaus and Dr. John Kennell conducted research on the effects of continuous birth support.
And their findings are clear: when women are accompanied by a doula throughout, it makes a big difference in terms of well-being and birth experience.
How well women are able to recover after the birth and how they subsequently care for their children is also different.
The research took place in the 1970s. At that time, a 19-year-old student accompanied women after the birth of their children and observed them. The student was asked to note everything the women did and how they interacted with their children.
Other students did the same. However, one student’s results were quite different from the other students’ notes.
That’s because the women in her notes had an easier and shorter birth, suffered fewer complications, required less medical intervention, and were very satisfied with the birth experience.
In addition, they all breastfed their babies after birth. That was not necessarily the case for the other women. What had gone differently? This one student had accompanied the women in the delivery room and had not left their side.
She had accompanied them through the contractions and had stood by them with words of encouragement and kindness, had held their hands when they asked her to. That was all the students did.
What was so important about this accompaniment now? The advantages of continuous birth support are particularly great when it takes place early on.
So the doula should be present from the first contractions, when the clinic bag is loaded into the car for the birth, it is high time.
Women become more secure in themselves, trust their bodies more when they have a person who is not part of the clinic staff permanently by their side. Of course, it is also important that the doula is experienced in childbirth.
The result of such accompaniment: the risk of intervention decreases, the risk of a C-section decreases, and the birth experience is perceived as more positive overall.
In 2017, there was a review of 26 studies from 17 countries that summarized the birth experiences of 15,000 women. This meta-study also concluded that women should have continuous support from the first labor through the postpartum period.