Find out everything you need to know about a Doula, and why they play such an integral role during birth, in this Interview with Doula, Amanda Bernstein from Essential Me.
What exactly is a Doula?
The word “Doula” is a Greek word that means “woman’s servant”, though over the years it has come to mean “to serve”. It’s pronounced “doo-la”. Doulas are a trained and experienced childbirth support person (and are often mothers themselves). They do not replace but rather work alongside your midwife or doctor.
A Doula “mothers the mother” and provides continuity of care with physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period, to both the mother and her partner (if she has one, complimenting and reinforcing their role).
“Having a Doula can ensure you have a more positive birthing outcome, including reduced rates of c-section and less need for medicated pain relief – if this is your preference, of course.”
I will back you unconditionally regardless of your preferred choice. I offer this service to you from a uniquely holistic perspective, both as a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) mum (read more about me here) and incorporating my extensive Birth and Postpartum Doula, Ka Huna massage, and pre/postnatal Pilates training and expertise.
How does a Doula differ from a Midwife?
A midwife is a medical professional, whereas a Doula is not medically trained at all. Once upon a time, midwives would have covered the role of a doula, and been there to provide continuity of care and physical & emotional support. However today, especially in a hospital setting (which is where most Aussie mums have their babies), they are limited by hospital policy and insurance regulations, and are unfortunately often caring for more than one birthing woman at a time.
As a Doula, I don’t take your temperature, check your blood pressure, do vaginal exams or anything else clinical. Rather, I’ll be there to support you by providing information around your birthing choices and discussing your concerns, queries and fears. In your pregnancy we put together a birth plan, the power of which isn’t the plan itself, rather the education to know your options. During your birth I’m there for you, to help with massage, position suggestions, breathing and sounding exercises, aromatherapy, homeopathy, photography, Spinning Babies techniques, advocating for your wishes and more. Ultimately being there so you and your partner both feel continuously cared for and supported. And even if things don’t go to plan, I’ll listen, remain calm, collected, focused, be able to explain things without medical jargon, supporting you (and your partner) through any challenge and reducing the risk of trauma around your birth.
“I’ll help you to be present for your birth, rather than letting birth happen to you.”
After the birth we debrief your birthing experience so you can own your birth story, and I help further with tips and demonstrations for settling and wrapping your baby, suggestions for breast or bottle feeding, and can even bring groceries and cook you a meal, fold a load of laundry or take your baby and dog for a walk. You may just need me to simply hold your baby so you can shower! It can be quite isolating and lonely as a new mother so having postpartum doula support can be a source of comfort and adult human interaction. I’m a great listener and make delicious cups of tea!
Why should every woman have a Doula during birth?
Most of us lack the village we once had, and even if we are surrounded by family and friends, it doesn’t mean we want them at our birth. We are also now mostly part of the first generation of fathers/partners attending births and age-old wisdom hasn’t been passed down through the generations yet of how to best support your partner in a (hospital) birth setting.
“As a Doula, and an experienced birth professional, I come to you with an unbiased perspective and allow you to make your own choices, and support you in these decisions unconditionally.”
I’m not bringing my own trauma or past experiences to your journey and I take a lot of time to practice self-care, debrief and reflect. We all need support and a Doula works just for you (and your partner), not for the hospital. We don’t change shifts either, and I’ve often been at births (sometimes for 2-3 days) where every 8-12 hours there is a new midwife on shift. The continuity of care that a Doula can offer is invaluable.
Can a woman have a Doula if she chooses to have a private Obstetrician or give birth in a public hospital?
You can have a Doula at any kind of birth, in any location. So whether it’s a private OB in a private hospital, a private OB in a public hospital, GP-shared care at a public hospital, Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) at a public hospital, a birth centre style birth at a public hospital or a private midwife for a homebirth.
A Doula will support you wherever you choose to have your baby, and for any kind of birth you choose to have. I work hard to be the nicest and most helpful person in the room at your birth, and to build a good relationship with your care providers, ultimately ensuring you have the best possible birthing journey.
What are your top tips to best prepare for childbirth?
1. Believe in and trust yourself, and surround yourself by a supportive network of partner/family/friends who are onboard
2. Ensure you have supportive medical care providers, and hire an experienced doula who truly supports your decisions
3. Seek quality independent childbirth education and tools for natural labour and birth
4. Debrief past birth experiences (don’t carry past trauma to your next birth)
5. Know that you truly can consent or decline anything – empower yourself
and take control of your birthing experience
6. Use the BRAIN(S) acronym and ask for time to discuss/decide to make an individual choice that’s right for you (ask about the benefits/risks/alternatives/intuition/nothing – please get in touch if you want more details about this)
7. Feel confident in your decisions (no matter what, you have tried your best
and utilised every possible technique, tool, tip, strategy etc…)
Amanda Bernstein is a Birth and Postpartum Doula based in Sydney, Australia. She is truly passionate about ensuring women and couples are supported and educated about their options, and able to make empowering decisions around their birth from a place of informed choice. She believes that this way, no matter the outcome of this journey to meet their baby, it will be a positive experience that sets her clients up to a great start as parents. Amanda is also a VBAC mum of two gorgeous boys, Ka Huna massage therapist and Pilates instructor. Her Doula business is called Essential Me.