Monday, 9 January 2012

A Doula by My Side

Photo: Kelsey Johnson
Being pregnant and living in a foreign country can be quite daunting once the euphoria has ebbed and reality hits. Back home you'd have your mum, sister or best friend on hand to support you through the nine month roller coaster that is pregnancy. When you're abroad it may be harder to find that emotional and practical support. Further more there are language and culture differences making it tougher still. This is why a doula is a great option for expats.

For nine months a doula stands at your side, helping you to prepare mentally and physically for the upcoming birth. When D-Day comes and you're huffing and puffing contractions away, a doula provides hands on physical support and pushes you mentally to go further than you thought you ever could. Whilst your partner is passed out exhausted on a chair in the delivery room, a doula takes over and holds your hand. If you're not sure of your options as the birth approaches, a doula paints a picture for you.

There are also medical reasons to have a doula in the delivery room with you - it has been shown that the presence of a doula reduces medical interventions such as caesarians and pain relief. The presence of a doula creates peace, trust and a feeling of safety in the delivery room and this has an effect on the birth of a baby. And speaking from personal experience this is not just sales talk on doula sites.

The birth of my first son was not the straight forward, pleasant experience we had hoped for. This was largely due to a maternity ward running at full capacity and few nurses around to help when we needed it most. It was scary. We'd had the chance of using a doula but thought it unnecessary at the time. A regret for sure. 

During my second pregnancy I didn't hesitate one second to contact a doula to support me and my husband in the delivery room. When my third pregnancy was confirmed she was one of the first to know. 

My doula, Malua te Lintelo, belonged in the delivery room with me and my husband as if she were a member of our family. There was no other person I would have rather had in the delivery room with us last October. After her presence during the birth of my second child, there was no doubt she would be with us for our third.

Not only did she give me the emotional support during the most difficult times of labour, she also gave valued emotional and practical support in the months and particularly weeks before my due date. She reminded me how tiring labour is...... prodded me to get my rest when I could, despite looking after my two children. She encouraged me to lean on others around me and she pushed home how important time with alone with my husband was before the baby arrived. She helped put me in the right emotional and mental place for the birth.

Unfortunately she couldn't wave a magic wand and take away the fatigue that raged once the contractions hit full strength. Two nights of contractions and no sleep had sapped my reserves, but thanks to Malua I got through the birth with a smile on my face and can look back on a happy, memorable birth once more.

There are many reasons to take a doula with you on your journey though pregnancy and birth: for expats there are more reasons still.

For more information about doulas and where to find one near you in the Netherlands visit . My doula, Malua, can be contacted at Welkomst and if you would like more information about my experiences in Malua's hands then please feel free to contact me.

To read more about my experience with my doula during my second delivery read my article "A Little Help in the Delivery Room" on I Am Expat.


  1. Wow I can only imagine what a pregnancy would be like in a foreign country! I can understand given all that why you would want a doula by your side. Glad you found someone that worked for you.

  2. Thanks Janey. My first pregnancy was certainly an experience but by the third I did at least have some experience in the different systems but a doula on side certainly eased things for us for sure :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing your positive experience with a doula. I have also hired one for my third birth to ensure that someone acts as a mediator between me, my husband and the midwives. I hope with her I will find the support I need. Again, your story shows how important it is to have a qualified supportive person by your side!

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am preparing for my first birth in Berlin and am trying to get used to the idea of having a baby, German health care and birthing practices abroad all at once. It's a little wild - but hearing from other expats proves it can be done.