|What is the meaning of a “Doula”?
“Doula” is a Greek word meaning, literally
“handmaiden” and is a concept that is becoming
widely accepted in South Africa. The purpose of a Doula
is to assist women during their birthing experience, and
they are trained to provide emotional and physical support
for labouring mothers. First time mothers who were supported
by a Doula often report that they will repeat the experience
second time around.
Some mothers find that such companionship improves the
birthing experience profoundly. First time mothers accompanied
by a Doula report better self-esteem and more successful
breastfeeding and less post-natal depression than those
receiving routine hospital care.
For some mothers clinical settings are stressful. Women
can be vulnerable to environmental influences, especially
when they are at this emotive time in their lives. Institutional
routines and lack of privacy undermine feelings of competence
and confidence which can affect the ability to breastfeed,
with all its advantages of good nutrition and emotional
bonding. The inability to breastfeed increases the risk
of depression. A Doula helps the mother to relax.
In addition, Doula’s are incredibly helpful after
birth. Some specialize in post-partum weeks, providing a
comforting mix of motherly advice, breast-feeding assistance
and help with household chores.