Pregnancy and the business of babies takes quite a bit of project management here in Singapore: so you signed up for maternity insurance well in advance, have chosen the perfect baby name and might even be checking out some interesting pregnancy gadgets... there’s a lot to take in! Throughout it all, right up to delivery, what’s really important is feeling supported – and this is where doulas come into the picture. Especially if this is your first baby, you might not be clear exactly what a doula does and does not do. How is a doula different from a midwife and how will they interact with the medical staff and your partner?
We’ve asked well-regarded doula in Singapore Tania Grose-Hodge of Bumpwise to expertly answer all of our burning questions about her business. She gave a riveting speech as one of the pregnancy experts at our recent Dream Team Talk. So if you’re tossing up whether another face in the crowd on the big day is worth the investment, here are some handy points from Tanya to consider..
What does a doula do?
A doula first meets the pregnant woman (and her partner) during pregnancy to form a relationship and to provide:
- Information about childbirth.
- Help forming a birth plan.
- Information regarding the different hospitals in Singapore and what they offer.
- A list of resources to utilise during pregnancy and postnatal such as lactation consultants, physiotherapists, counsellors and psychotherapists.
- Emotional and physical support during actual labour.
- Support for her partner during childbirth, not by taking over their role but by enhancing it. An extra set of hands during a long or difficult labour can be priceless.
What does a doula NOT do?
A doula does not:
- Perform any clinical medical tasks (like check fetal heart tones or do vaginal examinations).
- Give advice.
- Speak out to caregivers and interfere in their role. A doula is not an advocate, so it’s up to the woman to communicate with her caregivers during pregnancy and labour.
How do you help clients prepare mentally and physically for labour?
First I find out what is important to the client for her birth experience. Like good wedding planning, it’s crucial to have a clear idea of what you want and to plan for all eventualities. Next, a good antenatal education is invaluable. We’re spoilt for choice in Singapore when it comes to companies providing childbirth classes (including Active Birth, Bradley Method, or HypnoBirthing). And a balanced diet and daily exercise really helps women physically prepare for birth.
What’s the difference between a midwife and a doula?
In Singapore, a midwife is employed by the hospital and is usually caring for several women at once. The midwife is responsible for the medical wellbeing of the mother and baby and will assist the doctor as necessary. A doula is employed by the client and is focused on that one woman and her partner. Doulas can also provide a continuity of care from pregnancy right through childbirth and beyond, whereas a hospital midwife is subject to shift changes.
How do you work in tandem with obstetricians and midwives?
We’re all part of a team that consists of the woman and her partner, the doctor, the midwives and the doula. Our common goal is to support the woman to have a safe and empowering experience and to deliver a healthy baby. There are some obstetricians in Singapore who see the benefits of doulas in the labour room and Professor Mahesh Choolani is one of them. Doulas of Singapore is a registered society that aims to improve the connections and relationships between doulas, hospitals and caregivers.
What is the greatest support you feel doulas can give?
Honestly, the best support a doula can provide is to remain open-hearted and non-judgemental of a woman’s birth choices. It’s also important that a birthing mother feels her concerns are being heard and respected.
How do doulas make a difference during labour and birth?
We’re all very familiar with the birthing process and intimately know the policies and procedures of different Singapore hospitals. This knowledge helps clients know what to expect so they can make informed choices.
We’re also there for partners at this overwhelming time. Some are shocked by the length of labour (very long or super-quick) and others are afraid of blood or babies! We’re there to acknowledge fears, to be that extra set of hands to massage or support a squat, and to make sure the partner eats and rests. We spend a lot of time together and want everyone to emerge from the experience feeling good.
What does your doula service involve from beginning to end?
I meet with clients two to three times during pregnancy face-to-face, and keep in touch via phone and email. From 38 weeks I am on call 24/7. I work closely with a backup doula to cover the unlikely event that two clients go into labour at the same time.
The first few hours of labour (with a first-time mum) are usually over the phone. I then pick up my clients and drive to the hospital where I’ll stay with them until two to three hours after birth. Second-time mums often have quicker labours and feel more confident. I visit the hospital the day after birth and then again once they are home and settled. After that I ring every day or two to make sure mum and baby are doing well and provide resources as needed.
How do you help when not all goes to plan?
Sadly, not every birth ends well. I’m also a stillbirth bereavement doula for clients with babies who have a fatal diagnosis. These families deserve access to the same support as those with live births. My involvement is more emotionally complex. I help parents to form birth and farewell plans, arrange foot / handprints and photos and co-ordinate networks with family and friends.
What do you love about your job?
I’ve been a doula in Singapore for 17 years and have supported over 400 births. I take enormous delight in watching a woman become a mother, a man become a father, a couple become a family. Nothing beats that! Those first few moments are so intimate and it’s a privilege to bear witness to such a memorable event. I still shed a tear or two but I’m so thankful to each and every one of my clients and their babies because each birth teaches me something new.
Other doula services and resources for soon to be mothers in Singapore include:
· ParentLink is one of Singapore’s largest doula services.
· Four Trimesters provides doula services for labour, post partum support and sleep support once your baby is born.
· Doulas of Singapore is a non-profit organisation with a large membership of registered doulas.
Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:
Real women share their pregnancy stories: Helen Lac on pregnancy truths
What you DON’T need to buy for your baby
The pregnancy and baby apps we couldn’t live without
Baby shower inspiration: an intimate high tea at Raffles Hotel Singapore