For starters, doulas are trained professionals who provide non-medical support to a mother before, during and after childbirth.
“A doula offers continuous emotional support throughout your pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Think of her as your personal birth assistant; the person you can ask all questions, and who helps you prepare for labour and birth,” says Athina Vandevoort, a midwife and designated doula at Mother & Child, a centre that specialises in childbirth and pregnancy-related issues.
But this does not mean that doulas are self-styled birthing gurus with no proper training or certification. Athina adds that professional doulas are required to receive training and certification in topics like labour, birth and postpartum, in order to advise their clients according to the latest information and research. Some recognised institutions where doulas receive their training and certification include Childbirth International (CBI) and DONA International.
Deanna Kearns, a doula registered with Doulas of Singapore (DOS), a non-profit for doulas here, says families should consider hiring one as there have been numerous studies suggesting that “continuous labour support positively affects the birth outcome”.
In fact, a finding published in 2014 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine indicated that the presence of a doula during labour can effectively improve the delivery process and outcome.
Johanna Wagner, president of Doulas of Singapore, recalls a client who had approached them for support for her second delivery after a traumatic experience during her first birth, which ended with an emergency C-section.
“This time, the client wanted to have a vaginal delivery so she might have an easier time recovering, and to have a baby that didn’t need to be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after birth. She had done a lot of work to prepare for this second birth – found a more supportive doctor, done some body work, exercised, as well as prepared mentally and emotionally. She wanted her doula to hold her space, to create a bubble around her where she could focus on the birth process without being interrupted or made anxious by the hospital staff.
“We helped create a wonderfully calm room, used the peanut ball and positioning techniques to help the baby move through the birth canal. There came a point when labour was a bit slow to progress and she began to doubt herself. But by reminding her to do her visualisations and relaxation techniques, we got her “over the hump”. Her labour did eventually pick up again and she got the birth experience she wanted: A vaginal birth without any complications or drama. No stitches were needed either.”