Yay, its World Doula Week!
As we celebrate Doula Week, I realise that many do not know about Doulas and the contributions they make in a woman’s pregnancy and birthing journey.
Doulas are professional birth companions who provide non-medical emotional support during a women’s pregnancy, labour, and postpartum period. Amongst the massages, exercises and emotional support offered by a Doula; they help pregnant women develop a birthing plan best suited for them, with individual and intentional needs. They are ‘GOOGLE’ in human form, providing knowledge on matters related to pregnancy, labour and postpartum issues.
Pregnancy in and itself is a stressful period, often there are external and internal factors that influence the experience. Birth can be daunting, traumatic and in some cases filled with the unknown, having a doula means you are signing up for someone to be by your side throughout all these experiences and feelings: the good, the bad, the expected and the unexpected outcomes.
Why I chose to be a Doula?
My very own birthing nightmare made me realise the need for support.
I was 21 years old at the time of my pregnancy, the last thing I needed and in fact should have even been thinking about was a child. I kept my pregnancy a secret till the very last day and as a result, I had no consultations with a doctor for the period of my pregnancy, no prenatal vitamins, baby shower, nursing teas, pre-baby shopping for adorable clothes, birthing plan, ultrasound scan and the overly glamorised gender reveal parties, my generation is into.
It was after a few minutes of what felt like centuries of labour, I gave birth to a beautiful boy, alone, in my room with no assistance nor support. I was rushed to a public hospital, where I was physically and emotionally abused, humiliated and disrespected by the nurses on duty. A year and 9 months later, I am still dealing with the traumas of that day!
Although there are still many undealt feelings and hurts that I am working on, I knew that the treatment I received was dehumanizing and that nobody deserved such pain.
Making the decision to help other women in similar situations came easily. I knew that I had to with protect and advocate for women’s bodily autonomy, mental health, and most importantly birthing rights. I spent months looking for ways I could act and finally saw what Doulas do and without a shadow of doubt, hurried to make payment to start the course.
My grandmother had 7 children and whenever one asked her about birthing so many children she always said, “birth is all about the mind, if the mind is at peace, then birthing experience will be peaceful”. I have come to believe in her statement; as doulas we help to relax your worries and fears thus giving you a relaxed birthing experience.
Celebrating World Doula Week
World Doula Week is a global celebration of Doulas, during the month of March (22-28. March). The celebration started off as a ‘one-day celebration’ in Israel, 2011. The expansion of World Doula Day to a week was pioneered by a collaboration between the founder of Doula Day Initiative, Ruti Karni Horowitz and Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA).
Fun Fact: Spring Equinox – the first day of spring – in some countries, represents the return of fertility in certain culture. The 22nd of March was chosen to be the start date of World Doula Week for that specific reason.
In this week, we spread awareness on the work of Doulas and the role that they play towards giving women positive birthing experiences. Let us celebrate World Doula Week by thanking Doulas with kind words of affirmation and reassurance.
The Importance of Doulas, especially in our beloved Mzansi
Given the state of care, disrespect, or abuse in maternity care units in South Africa, it is of extreme importance to consider the importance of having a Doula as a part of ones birthing experience. Studies have shown that having a doula during birth has greatly benefitted women. The benefits are unbounded, and I have listed a few:
- Reduced birth complications
- Positive birth outcome for baby and mother.
- Lower Anxiety Levels for mother.
- Shorter and easier labour.
- Reduced chances of medical interventions (c-section) or administration of epidural.
- Increased chances of future pregnancy
- Positive postpartum period and reduced chances of Postpartum depression.
- Increased rate of breastfeeding.
Interesting how are the word “Doula” sounds like the Sepedi word “dula”, which means: to sit/ stay with. I find that this appropriately describes what a doula does, we STAY with you and hold space for you during and after your pregnancy journey.