Before Getting Pregnant

Doulas: What You Need to Know

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There’s a lot that goes into having a child, sometimes having an educated and experienced helper to ease the worries of pregnancy can make the process a lot smoother. We spoke to Nadine Ghows, the creator of Gentle Beginnings Doula Services which is a local website offering maternal support for expecting mothers. She gave us some insight on what to expect when hiring a doula, a term she will elaborate in detail below. Nadine is highly qualified in HypnoBirthing Childbirth as well as fertility, breastfeeding and newborn care education. She is also doula herself.

1. What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?

A doula is a non-medical professional birthing companion. She provides emotional and physical support for the mother, father and baby throughout labour and birth. She also acts as a go-between between the medical professionals and the family. She knows the ins-and-out of hospital procedures and is able to advocate for mother’s birth preferences to be upheld and protect the birthing mother’s space. She is able to provide the family with unbiased information to help them to make informed decisions.

A midwife is a medical professional and is able to perform medical duties. She is able to identify when and if a medical emergency occurs and take necessary measures. She does not specifically provide emotional support for the mother, but she can. She has a more holistic view on labour and birth compared to the obstetrician gynecologist.

2. Can you describe a doula’s role?

The doula is by the mother’s side when the mother requires her to be. A good doula encourages the father to be involved and hands-on in supporting the mother, and takes the backseat. She will take over if the father is physically tired or needs a rest.

3. How much does a doula cost?

In Malaysia, a doula who attends your hospital birth will cost approximately RM1,800. This includes the fact that she blocks out any activities from her calendar two weeks before and two weeks after your Estimated Due Date; and she is on-call 24/7.

4. Why do people choose to hire a doula?

For various reasons. In a maternal healthcare system that is medically-geared such as in Malaysia, childbirth is viewed as a medical procedure that can only happen with the help of drugs and other medical interventions. Having a natural birth thus becomes very difficult even for women who are perfectly healthy.

Women who chose to hire a doula recognise the need for an added layer of protection or ally to support them in their gentle birth journey. Among other reasons, the mother may not be getting enough support from her family.

5. Would you hire both a birth doula and a postpartum doula?

Me personally, yes. However, a postpartum doula’s job may be somewhat fulfilled by a confinement lady or tukang urut. Because many of us in Malaysia still retain and practice cultural postpartum practices, the need for a postpartum doula is much less than a birth doula.

6. When should a woman seek out a doula?

In addition to what I’ve stated above, the mother may not necessarily want a natural birth. She may have decided on a C-section or epidural considering her medical circumstances, etc. A doula’s job is to support her in any decision she makes – but also to ensure that she has been provided with unbiased information before making that decision. Once the decision is made to have an elective C-section or epidural or whatever intervention, it is the doula’s role to support the mother in her decision.

If you are referring to what stage of pregnancy should a woman see a doula – as soon as possible! The doula can be a good source of information for the mother, or can at least point the mother in the right direction to find out more, besides being a good source of comfort and support throughout the mother’s pregnancy and birthing journey.

7. How and where can mums in Malaysia find the right doula?

To find the right doula, start with a list of questions like: ‘how many births have you attended?’, ‘which institute are you certified with?’, ‘what is your philosophy on birth?’, ‘do you have a backup doula in times you are not available?’, ‘what are your fees?’, ‘when will you join me during my labour?’, ‘will you be able to follow me on doctor’s visits?’

The doula will usually provide you with her terms of contract — read it and once you are comfortable with it arrange to meet with her. You may then decide if you would like her to be with you at your birth. It’s also best to engage her and keep in close contact with her.

In terms of where, there are a handful of doulas in Malaysia. Besides my website, there is also MyDoula.

Image Credit: www.hunterdoula.com.