Natural births are back. Labour has become a fem fest of girl power as celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Demi Moore have reportedly hired doulas to help them through their hours of need. Thankfully, these trained, non-medical birth professionals are no longer the privilege of the rich and famous and increasing numbers of women are turning to outside help to avoid unnecessary procedures during pregnancy and labour. Doulas, who will fight your corner and come armed with buckets of emotional support, seem to be the answer.
Even here, the concept is taking off, with Dubai Doulas, founded by Nicola Philbin and Elizabeth Bain in 2008, rapidly expanding.
I found Dubai Doulas on the internet when I was expecting my second son. My first son was born five weeks early by emergency caesarean section and this time round I had my heart set on a natural delivery, but my doctor was going to take some convincing. I needed backup.
I met Nicola, who comes from the UK, where childbirth and after care is very different to Dubai. ‘I’d had such good support myself that I really saw a need to do something to provide more positive information and support to new families in Dubai,’ she says.
Nicola was shocked at the differences between the midwifery-led system and support available in the UK and here in Dubai. ‘Here, the system is much more medicalised, being completely doctor-led, and there is very little in the way of ante-natal preparation or post-natal support,’ she says. ‘What worried me most was that the expectant mothers I met in Dubai seemed so lacking in confidence in their ability to give birth – they were almost “expecting” to need a C-section before they even went into labour. They hear so many negative comments from people around them like, “Oh, your baby’s too big”, “You’re putting on too much weight”, “You won’t be able to cope”, “Oh, just have an epidural, you won’t manage”.’
For me, determined to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean), she reassured me that what I was going through was pretty common, and that having the birth I so wanted, was not out of the question. Other couples turn to a doula if, like many expats, they are separated from close family, which can make a woman feel very isolated. Sometimes husbands cannot or don’t want to be present at the birth. Some hospitals in Dubai also don’t allow husbands into the labour suites, so during the time when a woman needs the support of the person most close to her, she faces being alone.
‘Couples come to us for a variety of reasons,’ says Nicola. ‘All are looking for additional support to help them through the intense emotional time that surrounds the arrival of a new child into the world. Some are first-time parents, others have had a difficult past birth experience and are seeking a different experience this time.
‘A doula will support a woman unconditionally in whatever choices she makes about how she wishes to give birth,’ says Nicola. ‘A doula offers support and information, never advice or instructions and particularly not medical advice.’
But the main role of the doula is to help women during pregnancy believe in themselves and give them the confidence to do exactly what their body was born to do.
‘I think the most important aspect of my job is to let the women know how much I believe that they can give birth, and that their body is designed to conceive, grow and deliver their baby,’ explains Nicola.
I went into labour on December 30 at 3.45am. I texted Nicola and told her that my waters had broken. She called me straight away and came round to the apartment, accompanying me to the hospital and stayed by my side for the whole labour – all 23 hours of it. When I felt like I couldn’t take anymore, she reassured me and gave me confidence. I truly think if she hadn’t had been there I would have ended up with the C-section I desperately didn’t want.
By 3am on December 31, 2009, my second son was born. I had done it, with the unflagging support of my husband and Dubai doula Nicola.
For more information and contact details visit www.dubaidoulas.com
What is a doula?
A doula (Greek for ‘servant’) is a trained, experienced professional who provides continuous physical and emotional support and information to mothers before, during and just after a birth. Always on your side, she provides reassurance, communicates with medical staff, makes suggestions for labour progress and helps with relaxation, massage, positioning and other comfort techniques. She will support your choices regarding pain relief, with the goal of making the whole birthing experience a joyful and happy one.
Research has shown that having a doula present at a birth:
• Shortens first-time labour by an average of two hours
• Decreases the chance of a C-section by 50 per cent
• Decreases the need for pain medication
• Helps fathers participate with confidence
• Increases success in breast-feeding
From Mothering the Mother, by Klaus, Kennell & Klaus, 1993