Doulas: an alternative yet beneficial addition during childbirth

7 mins read

What is a doula and meaning?

Firstly, doula is a Greek word – meaning women supporting women. She is a non-medical person that assist women prepare for their journey before, during and after birth together with her partner. She provides emotional, physical, and informational support. She offers continuous reassurance, comfort, and encouragement. In essence a doula is a professionally trained birthing companion.

How does one qualify to become a doula?

I completed a 6-month intensive training course with a certified organization called “Wombs”. There are also other organisations that one can investigate.

How did you get into this profession?

I love collaborating with people. I volunteer as a play therapist; trauma counsellor and I currently volunteer at workshops held for cancer patients, but my own personal birth experiences have brought me into this field. Both my pregnancies were unplanned. I never attended antenatal classes. I feel that my own birth experiences and struggle with PND together with my intensive training as a Childbirth Educator and doula and knowledge of counseling have given me tools, I need to help empower mothers on their journey to labour.

I am a proud mum of two beautiful kids. My birth experiences were not memorable and that is what set me on my journey to becoming a doula. I felt that I could help pregnant women prepare better, mentally, and physically, for their journey to birth and parenting. There is so much negativity and fear that surrounds birth and my belief is that birth is a beautiful, natural, and powerful experience. And that if women are given adequate support and education, they can create a memorable birth experience.

What do you love about this profession?

I love relationship building and interacting with people. This enables me to empower mothers by imparting knowledge to them in preparing for labour. I love being present at the miracle of the birth of a baby. It is a very emotional experience and playing a role in empowering someone else at their birth is extremely rewarding however my absolute favourite part is to witness the transformation in mindset and the confidence building in couples. There’s this shift from being fearful and uncertain to feeling empowered and in control. I once had a dad say to me Aneesa, I thought I knew everything as this is our 3 pregnancy, but your classes were an eye opener.

How does having a doula benefit your child before and after birth?

Before birth – it can reduce the need for a C-section, length of labour as well as the need for any medication. It is such a relief to the mother and beneficial to babies to NOT experience a forceps or vacuum birth as this is very traumatic to baby.

After birth – initiating that first special feed, skin to skin contact, as well reduces PND which is helpful to both mother and child.

How does a does a doula assists a mother pre-birth and post-birth?

Pre-birth – doulas help mothers to prepare for their journey to birth by providing emotional, support and cater to their physical needs during labour. She ensures that they are prepared for the birthing process by providing informational support, thereby helping them to make informed decisions. She makes sure you understand all medical terminologies in your own language.

During birth – you gain the advantage of having someone around you who can assist in keeping you relaxed through a combination of breathing techniques and targeted massaging whilst advising on different birthing positions, including techniques to ease the birthing process. She helps to create calm and stress-free environment. She is caring and nurturing and a continuous source of comfort.

Post-birth – the doula assists with initiating that first special feed, skin to skin contact which supports the bonding process and helps to keep the baby calm. She continues to offer breastfeeding support at home and debriefing of the mother’s birth experience. She also looks out for signs of postnatal depression and ensures that the mother is sleeping and eating well and has a good support structure. Doula’s postnatal services also include doing light chores and running errands. 

Postpartum doulas help parents transition from hospital to home instilling their confidence in those early days when they trying to find their balance.

Can you take me through the process of giving infant massages?

Massage is the language of touch / love. It is a form of bonding between mother and child. Infant massaging is the process of gently stroking an infant’s muscles through the use of specialised techniques designed to improve circulation, muscle tone and immune system development. The physiological benefits to the child are complimented by the emotional benefits of relaxation and parental bonding.

How beneficial is the massage to the baby?

Babies are relaxed, calm and happy. They sleep better. It lowers stress hormones and improves blood circulation. It improves all functions of the intestinal tract relieving colic and gas. It helps promote muscle tone. Babies feel loved, valued, and respected. Their needs are catered to.

There are also benefits to parents as well. It encourages communication, parents feel more confident in caring for their baby. It teaches parents to read their babies’ cues. It provides a positive way for fathers to interact with their child.

What advice would you give mothers of newborn babies or expectant moms?

Expectant moms should trust their bodies in labour and follow their instincts in parenting. The child is the teacher, the parent is the student. There is no stigma attached to PND, speak to someone, or reach out for help. Take help when offered, you are not expected to do everything yourself and know that everything does not have to be perfect. You will develop your own parenting skills. Enjoy the ride, embrace the bumps.

Is there anything you can tell me that I have not asked?

Doulas should have the following character traits:
  • A doula should be friendly, gentle, loving, open minded and compassionate
  • Respect the laboring woman and her husband
  • Calm and support mums’ decision
  • Have the ability to communicate professionally.
  • Be Non-judgmental
  • Have the ability to build a relationship of trust
  • Give the laboring woman and her partner privacy / be invisible when necessary
  • Doulas are like invisible guardians; they come at a time of need and leave silently when you are coping well.

What Births do Doulas assist?

Doulas have the training and knowledge to help support and attend various births… be it home births, water births, hospital setting *private and government) from natural to cesarean births, including vbacs (vaginal birth after a cesarean birth) multiple/twin births including miscarriages. Sadly, I have supported at a few stillbirths, in these cases, I volunteered my services to the clients.

I believe in any business one will continually be faced with challenges the key is knowing how to manoeuvre through them by improving your skills from marketing to branding and continued education. The challenges I faced working for myself was penetrating the medical market. Statically caesarean birth outweighs natural births however, I have always maintained upgrading my skills and education and that has been hugely beneficial. I have since qualified as an International certified Childbirth Educator and Hypnobirthing practitioner and currently teach antenatal classes.

Meet Aneesa Rasool Childbirth Educator & Doula

Aneesa Rasool is an Internationally certified Childbirth Educator, qualified Hypnobirthing Practitioner, Doula, and Infant Massage Instructor. Through these services she supports young mothers’ journey into motherhood, empowering them to enjoy the miracle of birth. A wife and mother of two herself, she knows the challenges of balancing work and family and understands the tension between the joys and woes of motherhood.

In the delivery room, Aneesa uses her qualifications as a Hypnobirthing practitioner to achieve calm in her patients. Hypnobirthing prepares expectant parents mentally, physically, and emotionally for the birth of their child, assisting in creating the environment for a relaxed, stress-free birth. “Birth is a normal, healthy and natural experience”, she says. “By learning how one’s body responds to giving birth, and developing supporting techniques of relaxation, a mother can overcome fears and be empowered to enjoy the experience.”

For Aneesa, the well-being of the family is key. She knows that peace of mind comes as a mother’s understanding of her child grows. Her practice can help increase a mother’s confidence – a trait which is important in facilitating learning of how to soothe a baby and boost infant development.

“It’s tough right from the start,” Aneesa says. “As mother you will find yourself living for those ‘magic moments’ when your child takes her first step, score his first soccer goal, or just randomly tells you she loves you. But the anxiety of not knowing what to expect during your pregnancy, the fear of giving birth, and the desperation of not knowing what to do in those first weeks can be exhausting.” Aneesa knows the worry of a young mother well: the urge to protect and do right by one’s child. “I often found myself longing for a little extra support – someone to help me be the best mom I could be.” That exactly is at the core of Aneesa’s pre- and postnatal services: support that empowers

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