But, erm… what’s that mean, exactly?
For the uneducated, the term doula (pronounced “doo-la”) is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘woman servant’ or ‘caregiver.’ Essentially, their role is to offer physical and emotional support to parents-to-be to make the whole birthing experience a happy one. This might involve pain management, massage, help with breathing techniques or acupressure – and above all, facilitating a constant dialogue with their medical team.
In short, doulas are there to empower them to understand their choices during the delivery process. Statistics show pretty stellar results too; women who employ them are less likely to have premature and low-birth-weight babies and are twice as likely to avoid labour complications. Little wonder then Megs is breaking royal tradition to have one by her side.
Isn’t that basically what a midwife does?
Not in the slightest. Midwives are clinically trained to provide health care and step in if things don’t go as planned. In fact, one study found that only six to 10 per cent of a nurse’s time is actually engaged in labour support activities. On the other hand, doulas guide the couple through coping strategies and act as an advocate on their behalf. For example: say you were hell-bent on a natural delivery and your doctor started pressing for a caesarean, your doula would help you a.) stay calm, and b.) encourage you to ask questions about your options.
So, what do the experts say?
Considering hospitals themselves are increasingly putting doulas on staff (numbers have doubled in the past decade) – we’d say they’re pretty on board.
“We can’t be in the room the whole time, but doulas can, which can help women feel more supported,” Dr Sindhu Srinivas, director of obstetrics at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania told Women’s Health.
More importantly, though, it keeps the patients happy. Not only are doula deliveries typically smoother, they’re also cheaper. While their services set the Aussie average joe back between $800 and $2000 (inc. 2 x prenatal visits, the labour/birth support and 1 x postnatal visit), using one could shave off around $1000 in medical costs if (heaven forbid) something were to go wrong. Plus, depending on what insurance company you’re with, some (or all) of this expense could be covered.
How do I find one?
The Australian Doula College, She Births and Doula Network Australia are the best places to start; all three have extensive doula directories. That said, it’s important to shop around until you find the person that’s right for you.