This article stems from a desire to let mothers-to-be and new mothers know what a Doula, a figure about whom there is much talk today, even in improper terms, can do for them. So , let’s make it clear.

As I recounted in a previous article(Pregnancy:beware of the “assembly line”) it is true that “pregnancy is not a disease” as it is true that it brings with it profound changes, physical and emotional.

Sometimes it can be difficult for us, women who are used to “managing everything,” taking care of our loved ones, being efficient at work, and you name it, to take space even at a special time like pregnancy. If the pregnancy runs smoothly without any particular complications, it is likely that we will tend to continue our daily lives by bringing a relative focus to what is going on inside us.

Often the first real moment of contact with our baby happens during ultrasound scans and the first spaces to stop, “feel” him and with him feel our feelings (joy, fear, sadness, happiness etc… ) we take them when we enroll in some pre-birth classes so around the seventh month.

Today I am beginning to observe a countertrend movement made up of women who feel a desire to live their pregnancy more fully or who feel they need support to deal with the changes it brings, in their bodies, in the way they live and view life, in their couples, in their family relationships etc.

My work as a Doula starts from these assumptions and aims to give back space, time and care to women who want it.

What is and what is not a Doula

Doula is a facilitator of the best pregnancy birth and puerperium experience.

The Doula is a non-health figure, the Doula does not visit, does not “touch” , does not make prescriptions, and does not substitute in any way for the referring medical health figures (obstetrician/gynecologist).

Who could benefit from a Doula

A dear friend and colleague of mine, Lucia, one day said, “Every woman deserves a doula.”

I think so, too. A first-time mom who is facing a whole new world, or a third-time mom who although she has been through it before is still living a story of her own (every pregnancy is different) – a mom who has already had a C-section and is preparing for a natural VBAC birth, a mom who has chosen a planned C-section but wishes to live it with serenity and awareness – a mom who comes home after a difficult birth and needs to recover to care for her baby, a mom who returns home after a twin birth and decides to breastfeed both her babies but would need support – a mom who feels she is having difficulty breastfeeding, a mom who is simply “tired” and needs to “feed herself to feed her baby.”

Every woman, every mom, deserves a Doula.

Why the Doula and not the mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, aunt, or friends?

The doula in no way replaces women in the family or friends who wish to be close to the pregnant or postpartum woman.

However, it may happen, and today it is in fact very common because of the way society is structured, that we may not all have other women in the family close by in the same city, or that friends, however dear, may not have the ability to provide care and support in the time and manner we require.

Another important aspect is that women in the family or friends, given the type of relationship, tend to bring their own personal experience, and this can be an additional burden for the one who would instead “only” wish to be able to experience her own pregnancy without conditioning, suggestion or projections from others.

The Doula can guarantee just that to the woman, a closeness, a support, a source of information while completely refraining from any judgment and any indication of merit with respect to what is or is not good for her.

Doula accompanies each mother in rediscovering her own strength, skills, and abilities by strengthening her self-confidence so that she and only she (with her partner) is the protagonist of the choices related to her motherhood.

Does the Doula also take care of the dads?

Yes, of course. If fathers wish.

The role of the partner is very important, and there is no “right way” to be a dad or to stand by your partner. Often, because the focus is totally on the mother, the partner does not have much opportunity to voice what he or she feels, which is also to the detriment of the relationship as a couple and with the child. There are men who wish to “participate” others who apparently need to get on with their lives without bringing much attention to what is happening. What is important is to create a good climate in the relationship by supporting both partners in their feelings and facilitating communication and interaction that satisfies them.

What can a Doula do during childbirth?

A Doula, who has accompanied a mother for all or part of the pregnancy and has established a relationship of trust and mutual acquaintance with her and the couple, may also accompany the mother during the delivery (at home or in the hospital), but only and exclusively if the delivery is assisted by a medical/health figure. A Doula does not attend unassisted births.

Continued emotional support, guidance, and information about what is happening can enhance and facilitate a positive birthing experience. Scientific evidence shows that the presence of a Doula can help reduce labor time, the use of labor analgesia and oxytocin, and generally makes the woman feel freer to express herself both emotionally and with the medical staff, strengthening her perception of herself and her abilities in coping with childbirth.

Then again, immediately after delivery and in the days to follow, the presence of a Doula, can make the mother feel “not alone,” supported and nurtured, can positively affect bonding, the establishment of a strong mother-child relationship, and the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.

What can a Doula do during the puerperium?

When one comes home from the hospital, or in general, a few days after returning to daily life, everything around the mother that has been mobilized in terms of attention and participation is scaled back, partners go back to work, and she finds herself alone with a new life and a new relationship to build-perhaps aching from childbirth or simply struggling with hormonal decline.

Again, the tendency is often to say, “I’ll manage on my own” unless something important manifests itself : a full-blown postpartum depression, complications with the baby etc.

But at what price to always do everything yourself? Knowing how to stop, knowing how to ask for help, taking care of oneself is not a weakness, it does not mean we are not capable, it does not mean we are not good mothers. No. None of this! nor to think that if our mothers made it, we will too: let’s leave behind so many false beliefs!

Taking care of us, our well-being, is the first great act of love we bring to our children who will enjoy mothers who are nurtured and able to listen to their needs and their own.

A Doula can also be invaluable where there are problems in lactation that are not solved by technical arrangements and suggestions. For more details click here

What makes a Doula special?

The Doula often “doesn’t do,” the Doula mostly “is there,” and this many times is as precious as we could wish for-a silent, attentive presence that doesn’t do it for us (unless we ask for it), that doesn’t replace itself in our choices, in our decisions, but supports and encourages us to manifest ourselves in our new role as women/mothers.

What kind of accompaniment does a Doula offer?

Typically a one-to-one accompaniment directly to the mother’s home within the time frame requested by her. There are also opportunities to share a path in small groups with customized proposals. For more info click here.

Have a great day!

Written By Alexandra Francesca D'Alessandro

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