What is a doula?
A doula is a woman who gives emotional and practical non-medical support to another woman (and her partner) during her pregnancy, and during and after the birth. She is usually trained and has a wealth of birth experience.
Why do I need one?
I am a British expat and my three sons were all born in the Netherlands. My first birth experience was far from ideal; I felt unsupported and lost in the delivery room, despite speaking the local language and having my husband next to me.
The experience prompted me to seek out a doula when I was pregnant the second time around, and when I found out I was pregnant for the third time my doula was one of the first people I called.
Here are eight reasons why doulas are a great idea for expat women.
1) A doula gives emotional support
Many expat women are not fortunate enough to have their mother, sister or best friend hanging with them inside the delivery room, or even anywhere just outside. A doula is a huge support in the absence of others and will help you with your emotions as you progress through labour.
2) A doula brainstorms with you
A doula has a wealth of knowledge and experience about local maternity culture and customs, as well as birthing facilities in the area.
Her knowledge can help you fathom out where and how you would like to give birth when the time comes. Will the idea of a home birth be well received in your host country? Where can you have a water birth? Are there such things as maternity hotels in the area? Which hospitals are possible options for a birth? How can your own cultural wishes be met?
3) A doula helps prepare you for the delivery room
Being prepared for a delivery is half the delivery room battle won. A doula will practice breathing techniques with you, give you tips for the different stages of labour, help you with a birth plan, talk about and practice various birthing positions. She’ll help manage your expectations and give you a good picture of what you can expect.
4) A doula champions your position
Your doula is present in the delivery room for you, and you alone. She has no other role than to support and assist you to deliver your baby. She knows your wishes and so when you cannot speak up for yourself a doula champions your corner for you. She will make sure that your needs are met as far as humanly possible. This is particularly important if you do not speak the local language fluently.
5) A doula thinks straight for you
When you’re not thinking straight after hours of contractions, pain relief and fatigue your doula thinks for you. Whilst your husband or partner is too emotionally embroiled to help you with decisions, a doula can clear the path for you both to help you get a clear picture of options. She reminds you to use the breathing techniques you have learnt. She reminds you to sit on the yoga ball you brought with you. She encourages you to listen to the music you chose for just this moment.
6) With a doula you are never alone
You are never alone in the delivery room when you have a doula. Whilst your partner gets a needed breath of fresh air, runs out to add more money to the parking meter or takes a toilet or food break your doula is by your side. My doula left the room for toilet breaks only whilst my partner stayed with me.
7) A doula will provide encouragement
When you think you have had about as much as you can, when the idea of another contraction fills you with stress, a doula encourages you to keep going. She instils confidence in you that you can cope with another contraction, that labour is nearing its end, that one last push means you’ll meet your baby. She’s a cheerleader at your side – without the pom-poms!
8) For the memories
Last, but absolutely not least, a doula can take photos of moments you otherwise wouldn’t capture, including of you and your partner welcoming your newborn to the world. Mine provided us with her versions of our sons’ birth stories a few weeks after their births; a priceless time capsule we treasure.
By Amanda van Mulligen
Amanda van Mulligen is a British expat who has made the Netherlands her home. She has three Dutch sons who are tinged with Britishness, and a pure bred Dutch husband. She is also a published author, freelance writer and blogger. You can read her blog at Expat Life with a Double Buggy where she scribbles about her expat way of loving, living and parenting. You can catch up with her on , Twitter or Pinterest.