Doula: ‘A woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth’ – Merriam Webster
Becoming a mother is a beautiful thing, but it can be a stressful experience. Whether a first-timer or already a mother, each pregnancy demands physical, emotional, psychological, and informational support to make it a comfortable experience for mom and baby. Sometimes, all a mom-to-be needs is someone to be her cheerleader – a companion to say or do the right thing at the right time.
A spouse may be supportive but he will obviously lack in areas where first-hand experience in childbirth is required. That is where a doula comes in. A doula is someone who provides continuous support to the mother, and by extension the baby and family before, during and after the birth. We met with U.S.-trained professional doula Esther Kimani who has supported over 5,000 births in the past nine years and she explains, “Emotionally, you’re like the rock. You’re there when the mom’s crying, when she needs to cope, and when she has questions about her labour and body.”
A doula’s services can be acquired at any time during a pregnancy. Sometimes the services begin even pre-conception. For example, Esther Kimani is also a nutritionist and offers nutrition counseling to women trying to conceive. Before the birth, doulas are available to answer questions and address the clients fears and concerns about childbirth and motherhood.
During delivery, doulas interact very closely with the mother helping with pain-relief including breathing and relaxation techniques, massage, and laboring positions. Doulas can also provide encouragement and reassurance for the spouse and family. After the birth, doulas may provide breastfeeding guidance and any other support the new mother requires such as how to bathe the baby or clip his/her tiny fingernails.
Doula is a Greek word meaning women’s servant and by its very nature, the job is reserved for women who have themselves gone through childbirth. It’s important to note, however, that a doula does not provide any medical care or handle the delivery of the baby. She is not a replacement for your OB or midwife – rather a supplementary advocate for your pregnancy. Medically, a doula’s role does not extend beyond facilitating communication between a mom and a medic.
The fee for a birth doula ranges from Ksh 15,000 to 40,000
And that makes all the difference. A doula’s presence and support during childbirth has shown to have positive outcomes. “We’re trained in ways to make moms labour more efficiently – so it progresses faster,” says Esther, adding, “These techniques lower the risks of a Caesarean section, post-natal depression and even the need for painkillers.”
A 2013 study showed that women who received continuous labour support were more likely to have a satisfactory childbearing experience, while the babies were less likely to have adverse effects at birth. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that doulas attend all births globally.
There is currently no legislation that recognizes doulas in Kenya, so Esther and her other colleagues in the profession are often (and mistakenly) passed off as traditional birth attendants. Nevertheless, there’s a fast-growing demand for their services and it’s no wonder; who wouldn’t want a safer, more reassuring and satisfactory birth experience?
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