Historically during labour and birth, women have been attended and supported by other women. However, in many countries, as more women are giving birth in hospital rather than at home, continuous support during labour has become the exception rather than the norm. While this more clinical approach is what’s become normal, it can also keep women from experiencing the most satisfying childbirth experiences.
A doula provides continuous supportive care to an expectant mother and her partner, during labour, birth and in the immediate postpartum period. This may involve providing physical assistance, emotional support, information and advocacy. Although many are not medically trained, doulas are specifically trained in childbirth.
Medical innovation has brought about revolutionary technology that allows for many new ways to monitor and manage labour. While the technology is important, medical staff can focus on it so intently that they’re unable to pay much attention to the natural aspects of labour and the non-technical needs of a birthing woman. For example, hospitals frequently subject women to institutional routines, have rules restricting mobility and offer little privacy.
It can be difficult for a nurse or midwife to offer continuous support, as they often need to perform technical or medical procedures that can distract their attention from the mother, and may have other patients to attend to as well. Staff shift changes can also bring disruption to the expectant parents, and all of this can affect the birthing experience.
When planning your birth, the team you choose will play an integral part in your experience. Whether you are attending a public or private hospital, it is important that your team – your doctor, midwife and partner – supports you, on your terms.
Adding a doula to your team means having someone with you continuously, someone who’s totally devoted to you and your partner. Doulas can help you to stay at home for as long as you feel comfortable and then continue to help you whilst in hospital. In the hospital, a doula works with your doctor and midwife to give you a positive birth experience. Studies have shown that, when doulas are present at birth, women have shorter labours, fewer medical interventions, fewer caesareans, and are more satisfied
with their birth experience. Also, partners tend to stay more involved
with the birthing mother when a doula is helping.
Doulas are becoming more available in Hong Kong. The team at A Mother’s Touch (http://amotherstouch.com.hk), for example, can offer women continuous support through labour at home and at private hospitals. And, even in the cases when some public hospitals won’t allow a doula in the birthing room, they can continue to be on hand, providing support when needed. In addition to the team, there are many other doulas in Hong Kong who also provide excellent care.