“When looking for a doula, We were looking for someone we envisioned as a close friend. Among the twenty plus doulas we met with were Julia and Christy. The two of them were at the top of our list before we even knew they worked together. We had a hard time deciding who was more wonderful. Fortunately We have had two babies and each had a turn helping us through our journey. Most importantly, we are so lucky to have such wonderful friends in Our lives. If you are looking for support, compassion, knowledge and humor in a doula; look no further.”
~ Julia Anello
What is a doula, anyway?
Throughout the ages, in nearly all societies for which we have records, women have been helped and comforted in labor by other women. These women stayed throughout labor providing physical comfort, emotional reassurance, and information. Essentially, labor support is “mothering the mother.” Today, labor support professionals called doulas (DOO-lah; Greek for “woman who serves”) are trained to provide the comfort and care women need during labor. A doula is a woman trained in labor and birth. She is a believer that birth is normal and that women are perfectly created to give birth. She is knowledgeable in how labor can progress and ways to assist the mother with pain management including massage, visualization, relaxation, and by being a calming, experienced presence. She provides encouragement and constant support throughout the entire labor and delivery to both mother AND her partner. A doula is available to the parents with information about medical interventions, including risks and benefits, and allows them to make an informed decision.
There are several benefits of having a doula at your birth. These women have been shown, in published studies, to provide a:
- 50% reduction in your chance of having a cesarean
- 60% reduction in the use of epidural anesthesia and 30% reduction in the use of narcotics
- 40% reduction in the use of Pitocin (the synthetic version of oxytocin)
- 25% reduction in the time of labor
- 40% reduction in the use of forceps and vacuum extraction
There is also evidence that shows having a doula can reduce the incidents of postpartum depression, levels of anxiety, maternal bleeding following birth, as well as a reduction in the chances of health complications, hospitalizations of baby, maternal fever and infection. Having a doula also shows evidence of an increased chance of successful breastfeeding and also a higher chance of spontaneous vaginal birth. Mothers overall have reported feeling more secure, more in control and have a higher regard and increased sensitivity towards their babies. A more positive birth experience!
Why should I use a doula?
In order to have a positive birth experience, most women need continuous labor support. Although obstetrical nurses are experienced in dealing with a laboring woman’s emotional and physical needs, they can seldom guarantee the support they provide will last throughout the labor – especially in hospital settings where shift changes, coffee breaks, heavy paperwork and busy nights regularly occur. Some OB nurses handle up to six laboring couples at a time. Midwives may be able to offer more labor support, but they too have clinical duties to which they must attend.
The father or partner may be better able to provide continuous support but has little actual experience in dealing with the forces of labor. Even fathers who have had intensive preparation are often surprised at the amount of work involved (more than enough for two people). Even more important, many fathers experience the birth as an emotional journey of their own and find it hard to be objective in such a situation.
You may wonder, “Why don’t more people have a doula?”. According to Doulas of North America, one of the biggest challenges of doulas becoming more of an integral part of the childbirth process is simply the lack of education among the general population, healthcare professionals, and insurance companies. As people become more aware of the differences that doulas can make, their role will become more and more prominent. So you are way ahead of the game. You are already empowering yourself! Making informed decisions!