Doula: An Angel in Disguise

Doula: An Angel in Disguise
Lulwa Shalhoub | Arab News
“Doula” is a word that is not familiar in Saudi Arabia though what it refers to brings comfort and relief to pregnant women in many countries around the world. It comes from Greek and refers to a caregiver. A doula is an experienced female assistant who provides physical, emotional and informed choice support in prenatal care, during childbirth and during the postpartum period.It is something that is new here but is making its initial appearance in Saudi society. Alicia Ali, a Canadian mother of three, is one of the first to start the service. She has lived in the Kingdom for a long time. What made her think of providing the service it was the situation of expatriate mothers who are away from their families and loved ones. “In Saudi Arabia there are a lot of expatriate women who are far from their families. We do not have the support of the community as if we were in our home countries,” Ali said. She herself felt the absence of emotional support and assistance during her first pregnancy. “I did not get the medical or emotional support I needed. When I was in labor, my doctor was not there; she was only present to deliver the baby and that was it. I didn’t feel it was enough.”During her third pregnancy she took doula training in Canada as she wanted to help women in the community by offering them a much better experience of pregnancy than most of them had.

Farheen Deean described the doula as an angel in disguise. “The doula service is an excellent and very important service for pregnant women. Doulas provide a sense of security, confidence and reassurance,” said Dean, who had Ali’s support and assistance in the delivery of her daughter. Dean said she noticed that her recovery after delivery was quicker and having the doula had helped her bond with her child and as a result made her a more confident mother.

“Alicia’s inner strength and experience saved me from an episiotomy. She massaged me and kept me hydrated and in active labor, unlike the nurses and the doctor who only arrive at the end to “catch the baby,” she explained.

A doula can offer many services including consultation, natural remedies and techniques, birth plans, visualizations/meditations, hydrotherapy and aromatherapy. Women employing a doula at birth have better outcomes and are more satisfied with their birth experience. Thus the transition from pregnancy to giving birth becomes much easier and more memorable.

“This practice is now being embraced and supported by medical society and you realize the benefit in all aspects when you have the support. The number of caesareans is reduced; postpartum depression is diminished and the contact with the baby is reestablished and fathers are more involved,” Ali said.

A doula does not replace a doctor, the baby’s father, a sister, or a close friend. She is part of the team and she is professional in what she does. She is like a labor coach to guide pregnant women during pregnancy supporting them emotionally, physically, nutritionally and spiritually. “Because I am a Muslim, I know the spirituality aspect is sacred according to authentic sources from Qur’an and Sunna. One can actually use such spiritual remedies as reading Surat Yaseen by the partner during labor because it is shown in Hadith that it relieves the pain,” Ali said.

Ali still does not have an office because she doubted the response and people’s understanding. “For the present, it is by word of mouth depending on people who know what doula is and then they recommend me to others.” She moved to Jeddah about six months ago after having provided doula services in Riyadh. “Women in Jeddah are very open-minded and they want to experience new things,” she said.

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