Support from a doula: what is a doula?

Support from a doula: what is a doula?

The doula

You're pregnant and already thinking plenty about giving birth. With joy, because that event will lead to the first meeting with your little miracle. But perhaps also with some fear (especially after seeing movies and series where women scream their lungs out during childbirth). This might also make you start thinking about the people who will be present at your birth and who will help you through it in all kinds of ways. Your midwife or gynecologist will play a major role in your birth, as will your partner. Do you feel that you can use (read: undoubtedly will need) some extra support during the birth? Then you might choose your mother or sister. Calling in a personal birth coach, a so-called doula, is also a good idea. Another difficult word, I hear you say thoughtfully. We come to the rescue with answers to the following questions: what is a doula, what does a doula do and why should you choose a doula? Oh yes, and of course what the cost of a doula is (not unimportant).

What is a doula?

A doula (Greek for 'helping woman') is also called a 'childbirth coach' or 'birth coach'. She takes away a lot of worries about your birth and pregnancy by taking care of a lot of things for you, but at the same time providing you with the support you need. This makes a doula a great confidant during pregnancy and childbirth, but also after the birth of your mini-me (next to the midwife). It is also true that you can use a doula both for a hospital birth and home birth.

Furthermore, it is important to know that a doula has no medical background, so she can never replace your midwife or gynecologist. Because of her experience with different pregnant women and deliveries, the doula will be able to quickly raise the alarm during childbirth when she gets the impression that something is going wrong. She can also give you and your partner extra information about medical decisions as soon as they are communicated by caregivers during labor.

Support from a doula during pregnancy

Building a relationship with your doula will begin in an introductory meeting. As the name implies, this conversation serves to get to know each other better and find out if you have a click with each other. This is very important, since she will be with you during one of the most important and exciting moments of your life.

When you click well together, there will be two more meetings after the introduction meeting. During these conversations, the doula will give you a lot of information about your pregnancy and birth. She will explain what is changing in your body during the pregnancy (in case you are not able to understand certain symptoms yourself). She will also help you prepare for your delivery by explaining to you the best postures to handle the contractions and by teaching you breathing and relaxation techniques.  By discussing these issues, your doula will guide you in creating a birth plan.

In addition to these conversations, you can always call, email or app your doula with questions, or simply because you want to discuss certain fears or doubts surrounding your pregnancy or childbirth. She will reassure you and let you know it will be all right. In this way, your doula supports you by providing you with the necessary information, but also on an emotional level. This way you build a bond, so the presence of your doula will feel familiar during the birth.

Support from a doula during childbirth

You may need the support of a doula during childbirth even more than her support during pregnancy. That's why from the 37th week of pregnancy your doula is there for you 24 hours a day. As soon as you feel the first contractions, your doula will come to you immediately and won't leave your side until the baby arrives.

Your doula will do everything she can to make sure you (and possibly your partner) stay as calm and composed as possible during the birth. This includes encouraging you and reminding you that it's important to focus on your breathing. She can also give you a massage to reduce your birth pains and guide you in adopting a good birthing position. Because you have had a lot of contact during the pregnancy your doula knows exactly what you need during birth and what you feel comfortable with. This can also be a cup of tea, which she will provide for you! If you wish, your doula can also make a birth report with pictures. Nice for later!

In addition, a doula can be valuable during childbirth to explain medical information, given by health care providers, to you and your partner in a simple way. This allows you to make well-informed medical choices during childbirth. Even when an unexpected C-section is needed, the support of a doula is valuable. Often doulas have permission to accompany you into the operating room, allowing them to explain to you step by step what is about to happen.

Support from a doula after childbirth

A doula will also be there for you after the birth. She is there to answer your questions, but also to talk about your birth. Childbirth is an exciting and special event with many new impressions. Your doula can fill in any gaps in your memory of your birth. Talking about it can also help you to process the birth emotionally. Again, the doula will not replace your maternity nurse, but may supplement with non-medical assistance if needed.

Why choose a doula?

  • Unconditional support during your full labor. The dilation phase of your labor can take a while, and therefore it is not feasible for the caregiver to stay with you during this entire phase. She will, however, come to check on you from time to time to see how you are doing. That's why it's nice to have someone who can and will stay with you during the entire birth, namely your doula!
  • Fear of childbirth. It's not surprising that many women are afraid of giving birth, since the media portrays giving birth as a terrible event. It is also possible that you have already given birth once and that it was an unpleasant experience. A doula can encourage you, reassure you that it will be okay, and guide you during the birth (but also beforehand), to reduce your fears and worries about the birth.
  • Relaxing optimally during the birth. Because of all the conversations you had with your doula during the pregnancy, she knows better than anyone what it takes for you to relax and feel comfortable during your birth. And that's important, because relaxation reduces the risk of medical complications.
  • You don't have a partner or your partner can't be at the birth. Whether you are alone and don't have a partner, or have a partner who may not be able to attend the birth due to circumstances: a doula can provide you with sufficient support during the birth.
  • Your partner finds childbirth scary. It may surprise you (or not), but your birth is also a scary event for your partner, which may involve some worries and fears. A doula can also guide your partner during the birth, for instance by explaining how to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible during the birth. Also, when your partner has questions during labor, a doula can answer them immediately.
  • Experiencing your birth consciously. A doula can help you to be as aware as possible when you choose to give birth without pain medication. She can do this by guiding you through breathing and relaxation techniques and possibly giving you a massage to reduce the pain of giving birth.
  • Medical indication. A doula can also be engaged when you have a medical indication. She is a great confidant with whom you can discuss your options and write them down in a birth plan. During the birth, she can further clarify your wishes with the caregivers, so that your wishes are met as much as possible despite your medical indication. A doula is also often allowed to be present during a C-section.

Costs of a doula

Extra help and services regarding your pregnancy and delivery are often welcome, but then you hear the financial voice in your head asking: what is the cost? Each doula has her own fees, but generally, the price for a basic package is between 750 and 1500 euros. This basic package includes an introductory interview, two follow-up interviews, unlimited contact (by phone or email) during the pregnancy, support during the entire delivery, and an interview during the maternity period.

Unfortunately, the use of a doula is not covered by the basic health insurance package. However, there is a good chance that part of the doula costs is covered by supplementary health insurance.


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