Prior to becoming pregnant with our first, i had never heard of a doula. As it turns out, hiring a doula for that birth was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was on the fence about having a doula until the last few weeks of pregnancy. The decision came to hire our Bradley Method instructor when I realized I would have a lot going on as it is, birthing a baby for the first time, let alone trying to remember everything she taught us at the right time. My husband would be there of course, but this was his first birth too. We weren’t going to pretend like we knew exactly what to do and that we had it covered.
In most cases, the default reaction of a mother-to-be (especially a first timer) is to just do whatever the doctor says. After all, it’s the first baby (or second or third) for the mom and the doctor has delivered presumably hundreds. I definitely can’t fault that way of thinking. Had I not learned as much as I did in that class, I would have just blindly trusted any old doctor as well. But I was informed and hopeful for a natural birth. I knew that our doula would remind me of the tools I had to self-advocate for that birth, and she did!
Here’s the facts!
The word doula is a Greek word meaning women’s servant. Women have been serving other women in childbirth for many centuries and have proven that support from another woman has a positive impact on the labor process.
They are professionally trained in childbirth to provides emotional, physical and informational support to the mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.
Most doula-client relationships begin a few months before the baby is due. During this period, they develop a relationship where the mother feels free to ask questions, express her fears and concerns, and takes an active role in creating a birth plan. Most doulas make themselves available to the mother by phone in order to respond to her questions or explain any developments that might arise during the course of the pregnancy. Doulas do not provide any type of medical care. However, they are knowledgeable in many medical aspects of labor and delivery. Consequently, they can help their clients gain a better understanding of the procedures and possible complications of late pregnancy or delivery.
During delivery, doulas are in constant and close proximity to the mother. They have the ability to provide comfort with pain relief techniques that include breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and laboring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance. A doula provides the mother with the tools to self-advocate, encouraging and helping her fulfill specific desires that she might have for her birth. The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth.
After the birth, many labor doulas will spend some time helping mothers begin the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the new baby and other family members.
Numerous studies have documented the benefits of having a doula present during labor. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. With the support of a doula, women were less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported having a more positive childbirth experience (Hodnett ED et al 2003)
Other studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and requests for an epidural by 60%. Doulas also increase breastfeeding success and overall satisfaction of labor (Klaus, Kennell, & Klaus, 1993).
Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor. According to physicians Marshal Klaus and John Kennell, massage helps stimulate the production of natural oxytocin. The pituitary gland secretes natural oxytocin to the bloodstream, causing uterine contractions, and to the brain, resulting in a feelings of well being, drowsiness and higher pain threshold. By contrast, because synthetic IV oxytocin cannot cross into both the blood stream and the brain, it increases contractions without the positive psychological benefits of natural oxytocin.
Doulas are amazing!
They do NOT take over the husband/partners role (in fact they can support the husbands as well) and are NOT just for women seeking out an unmedicated birth or even those having a vaginal birth. The doula we used for our second child was there to support me throughout the gentle cesarean birth that brought him to us. She was worth every penny even though there was considerably less for her to “do” she did everything I could have hoped for throughout that birth.
I would without a doubt use a doula if I had to do it all over again and if we have anymore kids, there will be a doula!
For all the doulas out there!
Source: American Pregnancy Association.