The Doula or Yoga Doula is a person who supports and accompanies in a non-medical and humane way, the mother, the co-parent and the family during the period around the arrival of the child (pregnancy, childbirth, post-natal period).
Numerous studies show that in the presence of a Doula, the mother is better able to experience a harmonious pregnancy, a smooth delivery and recovers more quickly.
But beware, the Doula does not replace the midwife in any way and does not perform any medical act.
The Yoga-Doula offers perinatal support and accompaniment through the practice of pre- and post-natal yoga, as well as a healthy lifestyle coming from Ayurveda. She is aware of the different physical, emotional, spiritual, relational and practical needs of the mother, father and child and is there to inform and guide the couple in their journey to become parents.
As Yoga Doula our specificity is the practice of pre-natal yoga and post-natal yoga. Not only the practice of asanas, mantras, pranayamas and meditations but also the whole way of life which brings an understanding and concrete answers to many practical questions that one asks oneself when faced with the arrival of a baby.
Thus the advice in Ayurveda, a science complementary to Yoga, is also transmitted by the Yoga Doula to the mother and the couple.
In fact, it is Ayurveda itself that lays the foundations of the role of the Doula, by evoking the postnatal period, considering that the 40 days after childbirth determine the next 40 years of the mother’s health… hence the importance of taking care of the mother during this period!
The prenatal period with the Doula
The first encounter between the Doula and the couple is usually during the prenatal period (although the Doula may intervene only for delivery or the postnatal period). During this meeting, the couple will discuss their desires for this pregnancy, what they expect from their Doula, and anything else they feel is important to share with her (or him, men can be Doula too!).
The role of Doula Yoga is illustrated during this period by prenatal yoga classes, ayurvedic or energetic prenatal massages, it also guides the parents for their birth project, evokes with them each trimester the changes in the woman, the child and the couple that can occur. It is a period when the mother-to-be feels the need to express her desires, can sometimes be upset by all the changes that take place in her body but also at the emotional and spiritual levels (be careful, it is only appropriate to address the spiritual aspect if the parents are open to this approach and according to their beliefs).
The Doula has a role of listening and advising and takes care of the mother so that she can simply take advantage of this very special period of her life and thus take care of her baby.
If the role of the Doula is essential for the mother, it is just as important for the father or co-parent. Indeed, the father or co-parent may feel the need to confide in his place, his role during this period but also his feelings about this new woman who is his partner. According to us, one of the aspects not to forget during this phase is to prepare the father for the birth (yes yes) because he will see that day a woman he has never seen before, more “wild”, in a particular state, instinctive, sometimes surprising…
A doula at childbirth is diminishing:
- 50% fewer C-sections
- 25% reduction in working time
- 60% epidural
- 30% painkillers
- 40% forceps
Then why hesitate? Unfortunately the Doulas in France are still little known and the maternity hospitals are often reluctant to allow them to be present during childbirth (birth rooms usually allow only one person with the mother). But things are moving in the right direction and some maternity wards are beginning to recognize their roles and welcome them with open arms.
During childbirth, which can take place in a maternity hospital, a birth centre, but also at home, the Doula is there to bring kindness, serenity and support to the mother. She will have to take care not to take up “too much space” but just enough so that the mother is perfectly serene during the arrival in the world of her child.
The Doula can suggest breathing exercises or positions to relieve the mother, accompany her during the contractions, massage her, give her food and drink (Ayurvedic herbal teas, dried fruit, kitchari… which she will have prepared in advance), or ensure that the medical staff respects the birth plan.
The post-natal period with the Doula
Our Western countries have so much to learn from the wisdom of India, where mothers who have given birth return to their own mother’s home with their child so that she can be cared for during this period of transformation at all levels: physical, emotional, hormonal and simply in terms of rhythm of life.
In France, for example, almost no woman wishes or is able to return to live with her mother or stepmother, and the father has to return to work after such a minimal leave that he has not had time to make the turn his life has just taken, leaving his wife at home alone with their child.
Indeed, the mother often finds herself alone because the tendency is to institutionalize the woman when she is pregnant and to take care of her while she takes on her primary role as a Woman, which is that of giving birth, but as soon as she has given birth to her baby and the visit to the maternity ward has been made, everyone will go back to their daily routine, leaving the mother alone to face her new life.
The role of the Doula intervenes at this moment, during 40 days when she will come to the mother’s house at the frequency she wishes to “mother her”. She is then very versatile, being able to offer either postnatal yoga classes, postnatal ayurvedic massages, teach her how to massage her baby, prepare food for her, do the housework or shopping, or simply chat with her. She is also there to talk with the mother about the birth if she feels the need to go back over certain moments, or to give her advice on breastfeeding.
This is the magic of the Doula’s role: to allow the mother, the co-parent, and their child to live this unique period together in the most serene and harmonious way possible so that their bond is strong from the beginning of this journey and will remain so for the rest of their lives.
Article written by Chloé and Sarah from www.wedoyogaparis.fr
Chloé is a Yoga teacher trained in prenatal and postnatal by the Bernadette de Gasquet Institute, Yoga Doula trained by the Kundalini Yoga Doula Training, and soon to be trained in Haptonomy.
Sarah is an Ayurveda therapist, trained in prenatal, postnatal and infant massage by Aurelié Cros and Yoga Doula trained by the Formation des Kundalinis Yoga Doula.