The word “doula” comes from the Greek language and translates to, “female servant.” A doula provides continuous care for the laboring woman and her partner, and helps them fully experience their birth by offering physical and emotional support. She is trained to understand the natural process of birth, and to respect it’s spiritual, physical, and emotional aspects. The support of a doula contributes to the well-being of mother, baby, and father–before, during, and just after birth.
Research studies reveal that the presence of a doula can lead to:
- 60% decrease in use of epidurals
- 50% decrease in cesarean birth
- 30% decrease in use of pain medications (narcotics)
- 40% decrease in use of Pitocin
In addition, long-term benefits of a doula include, but are not limited to:
- Improved breastfeeding
- Decreased postpartum depression
- Greater maternal satisfaction
- Better mother-infant interaction
A doula can educate parents on the choices they have during childbirth, and provide evidence-based research that will aid in making informed decisions.
The most recent systematic review of continuous labor support summarizes the experience of nearly 13,000 women who participated in 15 randomized controlled trials. The authors conclude:
Continuous support during labor should be the norm, rather than the exception. All women should be allowed and encouraged to have support people with them continuously during labor (Hodnett and colleagues 2004).
Many of us are intimidated in medical institutions, especially when we are the patient in that institution. In addition to the continuous physical and emotional support, a doula can also help parents understand what doctors, midwives, and hospital staff are talking about. Doulas can also help you avoid medically unnecessary interventions and make sure you are aware of your options/alternatives. She can remind and support parents in asking questions and stating their concerns or preferences. She is a knowledgeable lay person who will stay focused on the mother and partner’s needs throughout the birth. Even if choosing anesthesia, a doula will provide support throughout the birth, as well as the immediate postpartum period.
No. A doula is supportive to both the laboring woman and her partner. Some couples wonder if having a doula will disturb the privacy and intimacy of labor and birth; in fact, a doula can help protect privacy and create an intimate atmosphere in a busy, institutional setting. She plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth. A doula can ease the stress and anxiety some partners feel about the birth journey.
No. A doula does not provide medical care such as blood pressure monitoring, fetal heart checks, or vaginal exams. She is not a health care professional and does not perform any clinical procedures. A doula supports both OB/GYN and Midwifery care and can help parents in creating a birth plan to discuss with their medical professional.
In considering whether to make arrangements for labor support, it may be helpful to consider results of research about satisfaction in childbirth. A systematic review of the best available research (Hodnett 2002) finds that the following four factors make the greatest contribution to a woman’s satisfaction in childbirth:
- Having good support from caregivers
- Having a high-quality relationship with caregivers
- Being involved in decision-making about care
- Having better-than-expected experiences, or having high expectations
Arranging for labor support may make a big difference in your satisfaction!
(Selected excerpts gathered from www.tolabor.com, www.childbirthconnection.org, and www.DONA.org. Statistics from Mothering the Mother, by MH Klaus, JH Kennel, and PH Klaus; Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993).
[action full_width=”yes” content_in_grid=”no” type=”normal” text_font_weight=”” show_button=”yes” button_text=”Contact Me” button_link=”/contact-us/”]Learn more about my services[/action]