New motherhood . . .  the romanticised image often portrayed, can often be a far cry from the reality.

Today's mother is generally not given the chance to enjoy her pregnancy, labour and new baby because of the pressures that society places upon her. In most rural communities we often see mothers going through labour alone with no help from relatives or family members.

Nowadays most doulas undertake some training.  Birth doulas are experienced in childbirth, and have a good knowledge and awareness of female physiology.

A Doula also provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective and informed viewpoint as well as assistance in getting the information that is needed so that empowered decisions can be made throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

A Doula is a trained person, most often a woman, who has knowledge of the biological processes of labour and childbirth. This knowledge is used to explain to the mother and the partner what is happening around them. She provides psychological encouragement and physical assistance. She also offers emotional support to both the mother and her partner throughout the entire labour and delivery and to some extent, afterwards. This technique is also known as mothering the mother.

Giving birth to an infant is much more than a physical experience. It actually engages parents-to-be in a transformational experience. When a birth companion assists a woman during childbirth, she mothers the mother, and takes care of her emotions throughout the whole process of labour.

A Doula furthermore provides support and suggestions for partners that can enhance their experiences of birth, and continues that valuable emotional support and guidance, assisting the family to make a smooth transition into the new family dynamics. During childbirth, and the weeks that follow, women have complex needs, and actually need individualized nursing care based upon their circumstances and preferences.

Numerous clinical research studies indicated that the presence of a doula at birth have many advantages. For example:

  ~  Tends to result in shorter labour with fewer complications,
  ~  Reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience, and
  ~  Reduces the need for, forceps deliveries, vacuum extraction and caesareans.

According to Phillips (1996:172), randomised trials of continuous emotional and physical support during labour have demonstrated a significant effect on reducing the stress of labour. Findings from this study include the following benefits: shorter labour, significantly less pain medication, and fewer medical interventions, including caesarean sections, forceps deliveries and epidural anesthesia. The childbirth supporter can provide the continuous emotional and physical support.

The Doula's ability to keep the mother informed is essential. Lack of knowledge of what is happening or of the purpose of any interventions, as well as lack of understanding, or knowledge of how her body is functioning, or of what is happening with the fetus can all cause fear in the mother. When a childbirth supporter continually informs the mother, asks gently what her thoughts, worries or concerns are, talks to her confidently with real information, the Doula can help the woman to get more inner security.

During any medical procedures pain can be reduced when the Doula remains with the woman just holding her hand, reassuring her that she is doing well, and describing what each action or intervention means. When the woman comes to labour, she brings her past with her.

The stories she has heard about birth, any experiences of her own, or the experiences of others that have given birth. She also brings her hopes and fears with her, about pain and about her ability to give birth as well as about health, and safety of herself and her baby (Kaibe & Boshoff, 2011).