Doula Support in Pregnancy and Birth in Portugal
Welcome expectant mothers in Portugal! Our blog post is here to provide you with valuable insights from foreign moms who have worked with the exceptional doula, Mayra Linares, based in Ericeira, during and after their pregnancy. In five testimonials, they’ll share their unique experiences of being pregnant and giving birth in Portugal as foreign moms with the support of a doula. Plus, as a nurse, I’ll be sharing the latest research on the topic of a doula’s role in pregnancy and birth. Don’t miss out on their personal stories and valuable insights!
What Support Can a Doula Provide During Pregnancy and Birth?
A doula is a trained professional who provides emotional and physical support, comfort, and information through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. They are not healthcare providers, but they can bridge communication gaps between a woman in labour and the healthcare workers around her.
The Benefits of Working with a Doula
I know that pregnancy can be a lot to handle. This can be especially true if you are far away from family and social support, or in a different culture, language, or healthcare system. But you will be pleased to know that working with a doula can make your life a whole lot easier.
Mayra and the foreign mothers, who Mayra has supported in Ericeira, will share their first-hand experiences of working with a doula and how it has impacted their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journeys with you. You can read the full testimonies at the end of this article.
A doula’s role is highlighted by various women in different ways. For instance, Lurah credits her doula, Mayra, for empowering her and boosting her confidence in her new role as a mother. Meanwhile, Laura hired a doula to bridge the language barrier during labour, while Jenny sought a doula to advocate for her and ensure a humanised childbirth experience aligned with her values. Milou and Janet emphasise the importance of having a doula as a foreigner, to navigate the local healthcare system and address any queries. But what exactly does a doula do?
Emotional Support – A Doula’s Role in Pregnancy and Birth
The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges that having a doula can lead to more positive health indicators for babies. Having someone by your side who is solely focused on your emotional well-being can help to reduce anxiety and stress, which can have a positive effect on the mother’s overall health, as well as the baby’s.
Physical Support – A Doula’s Role in Pregnancy and Birth
Doulas are capable of providing physical support to expectant mothers during childbirth by assisting them in finding comfortable positions, performing massages, and teaching breathing techniques. Additionally, they can offer guidance on breastfeeding and newborn care during the postpartum period.
As an example, Milou shared her experience of receiving physical support from Mayra’s massage. Despite having few physical complaints, Milou felt a significant sense of relief in her back, chest, and shoulders during the massage. Mayra created a comforting ambiance and took Milou’s preferences into consideration, resulting in a relaxing and comfortable session that led to a restful night’s sleep.
Better Birth Outcomes – A Doula’s Role in Pregnancy and Birth
Having a doula present during childbirth can lead to better birth outcomes, according to the World Health Organization. This includes shorter labour, fewer caesarean sections, and positive health indicators for babies.
The ideal doula provides continuous support to mothers throughout their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey. Sadly, in some places, such as most maternity services in Portugal, doulas are not permitted to attend labour and delivery. However, there is still hope!
Doulas offer assistance beyond the delivery room, helping mothers access vital resources and information. By providing support outside of the delivery room, doulas can positively impact birth outcomes and promote better health for both mother and baby.
For example, Janet from Scotland found Mayra’s help and guidance invaluable. Janet had a successful vaginal birth at Cascais State Hospital and is grateful for the assistance she received throughout her pregnancy and navigating the healthcare system.
Besides, in recent years, there has been a surge of research demonstrating the many benefits of doula support during childbirth. As a healthcare system that prides itself on providing evidence-based care, I am confident that Portugal has the potential to adopt these findings and update its policies to allow for doulas in maternity services.
Making an Informed Decision
As a nurse and a mom, I understand how overwhelming it can be to navigate through all the opinions and marketing advertisements surrounding pregnancy. That’s why it’s essential to seek reliable, unbiased scientific knowledge to guide you through this critical time. And that is exactly what I am here for!
My aim is to help you make an informed decision on whether doula care is suitable for you. Because let’s face it, we all want to feel confident and supported throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, don’t we?
Now, let’s take a closer look at the research on the topic of continuous doula support, along with the recommendations for healthcare services regarding the involvement of doulas.
What does Scientific Research Say?
WHO’s position on the benefits of doula support is backed by recent scientific research, such as this meta-analysis we will be looking at. But what is a meta-analysis, you may be asking.
A meta-analysis is a type of research study that combines data from multiple other studies to look for patterns or trends across a larger sample size. It’s like combining the results of many smaller studies to get a better overall understanding of a topic. Meta-analyses can help researchers identify important findings and draw more accurate conclusions.
Research Confirms Association Between Doula Support and Better Birth Outcome
Back to our research, the 2017 meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration, shows that continuous doula support during childbirth can result in a:
- 39% reduction in the likelihood of a caesarean section,
- 15% reduction in the likelihood of a negative birth experience,
- 10% reduction in the use of pain medication, and
- 31% reduction in the use of synthetic oxytocin to speed up labour.
Additionally, the same research suggests that having a doula present during labour can also reduce the risk of postpartum depression and improve breastfeeding outcomes.
While more high-quality studies are needed to make accurate conclusions, as pointed out by the meta-analysis authors, it’s worth considering hiring a doula to support you and your partner during this exciting but sometimes daunting time.
Health Care Institutions Should Include Continuous Support During Childbirth in Their Policies and Guidelines
This 2018 study published at the BMC Women’s Health, a peer-reviewed journal, was done to gather information from different studies on how women feel about having someone to support them continuously during childbirth. The researchers found that most women value having continuous support during childbirth, and recommend that healthcare institutions should include continuous support during childbirth in their policies and guidelines.
We are hoping that Portugal will soon follow these recommendations.
Research Recommends Community-based Doula Program
This 2022 Research review published at the British Medical Association journal (BMJ) found that community-based doula programs can be really helpful for women during pregnancy and childbirth, especially for those from minority communities who may not have access to the support they need.
Applying these findings to foreign women giving birth in Ericeira, Portugal, there are similarities with the women in the study, such as language and cultural differences, which suggest that they may benefit from a community-based doula program.
Conclusion – Doula Support in Pregnancy and Birth in Portugal
The doula’s role in pregnancy and birth is invaluable and provides numerous benefits, as evidenced by scientific research and the mothers we interviewed. From emotional and physical support to improved birth and breastfeeding outcomes, the advantages of having a doula cannot be overstated.
For foreign mothers in Portugal, a doula can be particularly helpful in navigating the local healthcare system and overcoming language barriers. Not only that, but a doula may also provide valuable support when the woman gives birth away from her extended family and friends.
If you’re planning on having a baby in the Ericeira area, consider contacting doula Mayra Linares. You can also find more contacts at the Portuguese Doula’s Network pages Doular and Rede Portuguesa de Doula.
Janet says: “I found having a doula, Mayra, to be most beneficial for the emotional support she provided during my pregnancy and postpartum. Mayra’s check-ins, outreach, and calming reassurance were fantastic, and her willingness to reach out to me made me feel supported. Mayra helped me navigate challenges related to breastfeeding and a tongue-tied baby by connecting me with the right consultants. I found Mayra to be caring and sensitive, and her emotional support was invaluable to me during my journey.”
We’re really interested in your opinion! If you want to know more about the health situation in Ericeira, Portugal, or if you want us to explore more about birth and maternity in the area, let us know by leaving a comment below. We’d love to hear from you and get your feedback! Do you want to hear first-hand experiences from locals and learn about the latest research on various health topics and how it applies to our local context? We’re all ears!
As promised, here are the full testimonies provided by the women who worked with doula Mayra Linares at some point in their maternity journey. We hope these stories provide valuable insights into the benefits of working with a doula. If you have had a similar experience or would like to share your own, please feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!
Testimonies of Maternity Support from Doula Mayra Linares
Mayra is a doula who has supported many women throughout their journey into maternity. Her clients come from various countries and have different backgrounds and experiences. Here are some full testimonies from the women who have worked with Mayra during their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Milou, from Holland:
“I met Mayra 2.5 years ago during my first pregnancy and she helped me navigate giving birth in Portugal as a foreigner. Her open attitude, gentle nature, flexibility, and experience as a doula made me feel comfortable with her from the beginning. I recently went to her for a massage and she created a warm and inviting atmosphere, taking my wishes into account. Despite not having many physical complaints, I felt a great sense of relief during the massage, particularly in my back, chest, and shoulders. Throughout the session, I felt relaxed and at ease, and slept well the following night”.
Janet from Scotland:
“I found having a doula, Mayra, to be most beneficial for the emotional support she provided during my pregnancy and postpartum. Mayra’s check-ins, outreach, and calming reassurance were fantastic, and her willingness to reach out to me made me feel supported. Mayra helped me navigate challenges related to breastfeeding and a tongue-tied baby by connecting me with the right consultants. I found Mayra to be caring and sensitive, and her emotional support was invaluable to me during my journey.
As someone who gave birth in a foreign country with a different language and away from family, navigating the healthcare system was a challenge for me. Mayra helped me understand the system, where to go, who to speak to, and what appointments I needed. She was always available to answer my queries and direct me in the right way. Giving birth in a foreign country required me to understand the system, the new SNS, options for birthing, public vs. private hospitals, and how to get appointments. It was all hard to navigate, but with Myra’s help, I got there in the end. I feel lucky to have a beautiful baby.
For the pregnancy follow-up appointments I went to the local state doctor, but they didn’t always have space for scans and blood tests, so we went to CUF. However, I found CUF to be sterile and more like a business, and there was a high rate of C-sections, which I didn’t want. People recommended Cascais State Hospital, which was very clean, had good experiences, and was efficient. The nurses spoke good English and were attentive. So we went to Cascais and had a successful vaginal birth. I am happy with our choice and grateful for Mayra’s Support”.
Lurah from Brazil:
“Mayra empowered me in a way that she spoke exactly what I needed to hear at that time, you know? I felt very insecure because with pregnancy, we actually never have control over things, right? So a doula helps us to stay grounded, I think. And after everything that happened in my birth, with the baby being so premature, I felt very insecure to do anything else, even with feeding. And that’s where Mayra’s psychological support really helped me to empower myself and have the courage to try and believe in nature, in the mother-baby relationship, and in breastfeeding. And I’m very, very, very grateful to her for that. Because breastfeeding radically changed my relationship with Clara. And I always remember it. Always”.
Laura from the UK:
“During my pregnancy, I had trouble getting appointments at Centro de Saude [Health centre in English] in Ericeira and ended up paying for appointments and scans at CUF [a private hospital branch]. I eventually got an appointment at the Centro de Saúde in Ericeira, which went smoothly since I speak some Portuguese.
I attended Lizana’s pregnancy yoga, which was helpful and allowed me to make friends. I gave birth at Garcia de Orta in Almada, where they respected my preferences for a natural birth and turning down the lights, but I didn’t like staying in the hospital for two nights and being away from my family. My partner could only visit for six hours a day. I also hired a doula towards the end of my pregnancy because I was worried about the language barrier during labour. However, my partner and I ended up handling everything ourselves, so I didn’t need the doula in the end. Nevertheless, I believe that doulas can be very helpful for some people.”
Jenny from Brazil / Netherlands:
“I had my second daughter here in Portugal, but my first daughter was born in the Netherlands. There, I was more familiar with the healthcare system and felt very calm and supported throughout the process, especially since they focus on natural childbirth, which aligned with my beliefs. However, with my second pregnancy in Portugal, I was less familiar with the system and felt very nervous. During my first ultrasound, the doctor made a comment that made me feel even more uncomfortable about the healthcare system here. I was worried about how I would be treated during labour and delivery and even considered having a home birth, but I wasn’t confident in that decision. That’s when I found Mayra, a doula, who was amazing. She listened to my concerns, helped me find a doctor who aligned with my beliefs, and provided me with all the necessary information. What I appreciated most about her was that she didn’t impose her own beliefs on me and was always open to understanding what I wanted. Even though I eventually found a doctor who I liked, Mayra’s support was incredibly important to me.”