The Greek word doula means woman caregiver. We now use the word to describe a trained labor companion who provides the woman and her partner with continuous emotional support, physical comfort and assistance in obtaining information before, during and just after birth.
Studies show that when doulas attend births, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
– DONA International
In Yorubaland (South-West Nigeria), the birth attendant is called Iya Abiye or Iya Agbebi and means mother of safe birth. Doulas play an important role in labor by helping the mother feel safe so she can have the birth experience she planned for.
The Yoruba, like many indigenous people, believe that the baby begins to spiritually develop in the womb. I believe that childbirth can be a very spiritual experience, and that natural birth is usually safe.
There is a Yoruba proverb that states:
Oriṣa bi iya ko si, iya la ba ma a bo
“There is no Orisha (deity) like Mother, it is mother that is worthy to be praised.”
This proverb is so valuable because it recognizes the importance of women in the birthing process, and – in a broader sense – the importance of women overall. A pregnant woman hears, “How’s the baby?” more often than, “How are you?” Doulas keep mom in the equation and praise her worth. We exist to serve mothers.