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Doula Ireland

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Many Irish couples have recently begun employing the services of a "Doula"- an expert who provides support during the childbirth experience. Doulas are a relatively new phenomenon and we have Tracy Donegan here to explain what they're all about and hear from a couple about their own experience with a Doula.

Tracy Donegan
Owner and operator of Doula Ireland. Tracy is a Certified Doula and a HypnoBirthing practitioner and is also the author of the very successful Irish pregnancy and birth book - The Better Birth Book. She has been featured in numerous articles, TV and radio. She is also a regular contributor to Modern Mum magazine.

Tracy is a member of DONA International, a member of UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) and the Professional Board of Hypnotherapy. Tracy also runs the Irish ICAN Chapter (International Cesarean Awareness Network). She provides doula services in Dublin, Meath, Louth and some parts of Northern Ireland. 

What is a Doula?
A doula is usually another woman who provides emotional, physical and educational support along with reassurance to a mother (or couple) before, during and after birth. The Doula is usually someone who has given birth previously.

When did doulas arrive in Dublin and how many have availed of the service to date?
Doulas are relatively new to Ireland. I (Tracy) started Doula Ireland in late 2005 after relocating back to Ireland after 12 years abroad and after having a doula at my sons birth.  Around 20 couples to date have availed of the service, with another 10 bookings for births through August of this year at the moment.

Is it available for single women?
Mostly couples but the service is available to single mothers and teen mothers too - anyone who feels they could benefit from additional support at a home or hospital birth.

How do the doula and partner work together.what can the doula do that the dad can't?
The doulas presence compliments the care giving partner.  Most Dads breathe a sigh of relief when they know they have a doula as it takes the pressure off them to know what to do.  During the labour they gauge the comfort level of the partner and adjust our style to suit them..sometimes having a doula sitting in the background is enough to help Dads calm their nerves and feel good about being an active participant in the birth of their child.  Partners have reported that after the birth they felt reassured having a doula present and found having the doula helped them be as involved as they wanted to.

They spend a significant amount of time working with the birth partner so they feel very capable and confident at the hospital. Sometimes it's very hard for partners and family members to see their partner in labour and not be able to 'fix' it. A very important element that the doula brings is they are used to seeing women in labour, and hearing the sounds of labour, so they are very confident in suggesting comfort measures based on the needs of the mum. 

For example a mum who is having a particularly long posterior labour would benefit from certain positions that most dads wouldn't be familiar with and the dad benefits from the constant reassurance of the doula. The doula tries to maintain a calm and confident atmosphere.

History of the Doula
The word doula comes from Greek, and refers to a woman who personally serves another woman. In Greece, the word has some negative connotations, denoting "slave" or "servant of God," For this reason, some women performing professional labor support choose to call themselves labor assistants.

Anthropologist Dana Raphael first used this term to refer to experienced mothers who assisted new mothers in breastfeeding and newborn care in the Philippines.
Thus the term arose initially with reference to the postpartum context, and is still used in that domain. Medical researchers Marshall Klaus and John Kennell, who conducted the first of several randomized clinical trials on the medical outcomes of doula attended births, adopted the term to refer to labor support as well as prenatal and postpartum support.

Doulas specialise in non-medical skills and do not perform clinical tasks, such as vaginal exams or fetal heart rate monitoring. Doulas do not diagnose medical conditions, offer second opinions, or give medical advice. Most importantly, doulas do not make decisions for their client; they do not project their own values and goals onto the labouring woman. - Doulas of North America, Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, DONA, Jasper, IN 1992.

Doula Ireland
Doula Ireland are lobbying to have restrictions in maternity hospitals lifted as several Irish hospitals continue to refuse to admit a second birth partner.

Research has also shown that employing the services of a Doula can lower the chances of having a caesarean section by up to 50% (North American research)

For further information see: