Some think we are there to make medical decisions for the mother. This is completely untrue. We are non-medically trained professionals who provide emotional and physical support to the family throughout labour and birth.
We actually have quite a tough job - because on the one hand, we are employed by the mother and father, yet on the other hand we are in the hospital premises and in the delivery suite. So its really important to work well with the labour ward staff. The staff - nurses AND doctors - can view us as a threat if they don't understand what our role is.
And lately Pantia Bangsar has issued a directive for mothers wanting a doula at her birth to sign a notice of understanding which states the role of a doula at birth is questionable at best and "risky".
Although the Ministry of Health has come up with the latest Mother Friendly Guidelines "Program Mesra Ibu" that clearly states mothers should have continuous support throughout labour and birth by a birth companion - be it her husband or a doula. It seems this is merely lip service. Many government hospitals still do not allow even husbands to be present with the birthing mother during labour and birth.
Some other misconceptions include:
Q1. Are doulas governed by a regulatory body?
A: We obtain training from the certifying body e.g DONA/ CBE/ AMANI and we are required to re-certify every year. This body is independent.
Q2. Do we attend homebirths?
A: Some do - but I don't anymore. Some certifying bodies e.g. DONA do not condone their doulas attending unassisted births
Q3. Are doulas employed by the mother or by the hospital?
A: We are independent and employed by the family, and therefore have to a duty to protect her space during labour and birth and do what is necessary in the labour room for mother to achieve the birth she wants - such as advocate for her choices.
HOWEVER we cannot completely disregard the hospital staff. In fact its very important for us to develop a good working relationship with them. This can sometimes be tricky to know when to advocate for mother and when to be flexible considering the individual circumstances.
Q4. Do doulas provide information to the family?
A: Yes definitely. We can provide the family with research and evidence-based information to enable the family to make an informed choice.
Anyway, have a listen to this podcast. It may shed some light on what the role of a doula is.
And please comment if you've any feedback or questions :)