How a Doula can Support a Family

Syanne Walker
Written by Syanne Walker

Welcoming a new baby into a family is a massive life changing event. Having the appropriate support available is imperative for a positive birth and early parenting experience. Doulas are trained to provide personalised emotional, physical and practical support during this wonderful time.

Antenatal Support

Birth doulas support families through the pregnancy and labour. They are not medically trained and do not give advice. They are there as an extra source of support and do not replace partners or midwives. In the antenatal period the focus of a doula is to prepare the family for the birth and the postnatal period. They can be called upon at anytime for emotional support and guidance. They provide information and empower parents to educate themselves and ask questions. Doulas help parents to create a robust birth and postnatal plan so that they feel supported, calm and in control.

The Birth

During the birth doulas provide emotional support as well as a reassuring and calming presence. They meet the family at home earlier in the labour process and provide continuity and familiarity. Partners are often nervous, doulas encourage partners to be active in reassuring and calming the mother. Doulas can use natural pain-relieving techniques and manipulate the atmosphere to increase positive labour hormones. Depending on their training and interests they may also be experienced in massage, breastfeeding, aromatherapy and hypnobirthing. Doulas are impartial and independent of the National Health Service, so they do not have to adhere to or promote non-evidence-based guidelines or procedures. Having a doula is linked to shorter labour, improved chances of successful breastfeeding and reduced use of pain medication.

Postnatal Support

Postnatal doulas provide support to families in the first few months after birth. Hiring a postnatal doula is the ultimate self-care as the role is purely to mother the mother. In the postnatal period there are several ways in which a doula can support a family which depends on the needs of the family. They support families to adjust to this change and have been shown to reduce the risk of postnatal depression. They can entertain the baby whilst mum catches up on sleep, housework or accompany the mum on those first few days out. The job description is primarily created by the parents and can include help with numerous tasks such as cooking, light housework, babysitting and shopping.

Find out more about the evidence for doulas at Doula UK & Cochrane