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What is a doula?
The word “doula” comes from a Greek word meaning “servant.” The doula is above all a companion who puts herself at the service of the mother-to-be : her role is to support you, advise you and support you , from the start of your pregnancy until childbirth and the baby's first months.
She acts with all kindness, without discrimination and without judgment, for the well-being of the pregnant woman and respects your choices and your birth plan (physiological birth, at home, in the maternity ward, with or without an epidural, etc.) She embodies a female reference figure who supports you and responds every time you ask for her.
A doula is not a midwife and does not have medical training. She is neither a psychologist nor a therapist. Health professionals cannot practice the profession of doula to avoid ethical conflicts. However, she can advise you from her personal (most doulas are mothers themselves) and professional experience. She can put you in touch with other future parents , advise you on breastfeeding , share information that will be useful to you during and after pregnancy: how to take care of yourself when you are pregnant, take care of your baby during the first weeks of pregnancy. life…. It does not replace health professionals but rather acts as a complement to the follow-up offered to you.
If the doula offers you non-medical support, she can attend your appointments at the maternity ward, with your midwife or even at the birth if you wish. In this case, it is advisable to include it in your birth plan, and to inform the midwives at your maternity ward of the presence of a doula on the big day.
You can call on a doula for overall support, from the start of your pregnancy and until the baby's first months, but you can also call on their services at any time, for example just before childbirth, if the need arises. Most doulas work with a package system: you define together the type of help offered, its duration, the number of sessions, etc. The cost of a doula varies between €300 and €800 depending on the services offered.
As the support of a doula is outside the medical field, there is no possible coverage by Social Security. However, since she works at your home, it is possible to benefit from CESU (Universal Service Employment Vouchers) to pay her.
How to choose your doula?
The doula profession is not regulated, which means that anyone can call themselves a doula overnight. To avoid excesses, health professionals also warn future mothers against pseudo doulas, who try to replace the medical profession, even though they have no training or experience in this field.
Word of mouth is probably the best way to find YOUR doula. But not everyone always has a couple in their entourage who can share their experience and advise you on the choice of person. Especially since this practice, although it is booming, also remains relatively uncommon for the moment.
In this case, it is advisable to use official organizations to select your companion. The Doulas Association of France lists around a hundred practicing and certified doulas in the country, and will provide you with all the necessary information on this profession.
Becoming a doula cannot be improvised. These women, members of the association, have signed an ethical charter and undertake to respect it on a daily basis, they have also followed training of at least 144 hours addressing the various themes linked to maternity (pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, place siblings, maternal difficulties, etc.). These training courses are delivered in France by independent organizations.
The doula is chosen by the parents, and the decision is generally made by feeling: you must feel confident with your support person. Do not hesitate to meet her as a couple, so that the feeling also passes with the future father, to ask him all your questions about his personal journey (training, motivation, etc.), to contact parents who have been supported in the past, and of course to discuss the practical aspects (number of sessions, availability, presence or not at the birth, etc.). Making the right choice is essential to establish a reliable and lasting relationship, based on respect, listening and understanding.
Doulas, these women who wish us well
Studies have shown that the presence of a doula throughout pregnancy has positive effects on future mothers, with immediate repercussions on childbirth.
On a psychological level, pregnant women feel better supported, better prepared and more relaxed about the birth having benefited from this personalized support. Medical appointments related to pregnancy are often carried out in sequence, without really taking the time to take an interest in the patient. Future mothers often have several contacts and are received by different people who don't really know them, which doesn't make it easy to follow up and build trust. Most pregnant women do not know in advance which gynecologist and midwives will be present during the birth, which is often perceived as impersonal. The doula is a reference, a constant support, a continuous thread, present when necessary to help the parents.
According to studies, the presence of a doula would promote spontaneous labor and make it possible to reduce the number of cesarean sections, labor time and the number of epidurals, and would promote the successful initiation of breastfeeding. Using a doula would also reduce the risk of postnatal depression.
You now know everything about the doula profession, which, although it is experiencing some growth, currently remains quite confidential in France. Supporting women, helping them to experience their pregnancy better, to gain confidence, to give birth while feeling supported and with complete peace of mind : this is the mission of these women, real support for future mothers!
Photo credit: @preggedcom (Pinterest), @neramniminde