I think doulas can be one of the most valuable tools in childbirth, yet so many women go through birth without one.
Since beginning my profession in the realm of childbirth I have had many pregnant friends ask me questions about various things related to pregnancy and birth. No matter who they are or what they think they want for their birth I always recommend they get a doula. Off all my advice, it’s usually the best advice I can give, but it is usually taken the least seriously. Why is that? I think it’s because of two reasons; doulas aren’t a common word outside of pregnancy and they are completely under estimated.
I first learned what a doula was when I was looking into becoming a midwife. One of the pre-reqs for midwifery school was birth doula training. I had no idea what a doula was so I googled it: “a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during or after childbirth, as well as her partner and/or family by providing information, physical assistance and emotional support. The provision of continuous support during labour by doulas (as well as nurses, family or friends) is associated with improved maternal and fetal health and a variety of other benefits.” It is literally translated from the greek word to mean “a woman who serves”. I became more interested… what kind of benefits does a doula provide?
Numerous scientific studies have shown that the care provided by doulas is directly associated with:
- shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduced negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduced need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- reduced requests for pain medication and/or epidurals
Also, studies demonstrate that parents who receive doula support:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse
So what are these doulas doing that provides all of these benefits? Doulas:
- Recognize birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
- Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
- Stays with the woman throughout the labor
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
- Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
- Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience
- Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level
This is all from the DONA website (which i recommend if you want to learn more about what doulas do, how to find one, or how to become one) but if I had to describe it in my own words… I wouldn’t, I would quote someone else who once said “During labor, the woman’s partner is her right hand and the doula is her left”. Doulas use their experience and knowledge of labor to personally help and advocate for the mother and partner to get through birth.
As a doula I have met with my clients multiple times before the birth to get to know them, their birth desires, and answer questions. I would then attend to the couple (or single mother) as soon as they wanted help. Sometimes this was only a couple hours before the actually birth, sometimes it was a couple days before the birth. No matter how long the labor is, the doula will be there the whole time. After the birth I would ensure the parents have transitioned from “birthing” mode to “connecting with new baby” mode and are ready to be alone with their newest family member. I typically do two follow up meetings following the birth to recap the experience and answer any questions relating to newborn care and labor recovery.
Birth is the most life changing, ever memorable, fragile and miraculous thing you (both mom and dad!) will ever experience.
Wouldn’t you want to invest in ensuring you have the best experience possible?
Now that you know all of this about doulas, do you think you would use one? Please?