Doula is a Greek word meaning 'a woman who gives another woman help and assistance'.
The word has now come to mean a birth attendant - hired to give hands-on emotional support and encouragement through labour and childbirth, using touch - such as massage in early labour or help with positioning during late-stage labour plus eye-contact and comforting words throughout.
Lesley, who gave birth to her third child in the United States hired a doula expressly to give her support during the labour and birth:
'Diane was wonderful. She came to my house as soon as labour started and accompanied me into hospital. As my labour progressed, I became very dependent on her, calling her back if she strayed away momentarily, with Diane - I need you!
She suggested different positions to me, rubbed my back, breathed through each contraction with me. She was very much like a mother-figure, but with none of the aggravation of having your real mother there!
'Fiona's birth was the quickest and easiest of all my three labours and she was the biggest baby. But because of Diane's expert help during the 'crowning' part, I didn't need an episiotomy this time round.
'Because I'd had no drugs, I was able to get off the bed and have a shower within ten minutes of the birth. The nurses were stunned! It was a phenomenal experience and I felt absolutely exhilarated afterwards.'
Doula UK is a network of doulas run voluntarily by doulas in the UK. If you
would like to find out more about doulas, or are interested in locating a
doula in your area.
Alternatively you can contact them by post or email:
PO Box 26678