What Does A Doula Do For Your Birth?
A doula may provide some or all of the following, dependent on her training and skills (she may be more than just a doula – some doulas are also qualified in other therapies):
- Birth education and preparation
- Birth planning (including creating a written birth plan/birth preferences document)
- De-briefing previous births
- Massage and pressure point natural therapies
- Optimal fetal positioning
- Supports and suggests different positions and changes to help ease any discomfort and facilitate a smoother, more effective labour
- Provide reassurance and encouragement takes care of your emotional needs
- Talking through emotional blockages which may come up in labour
- Keep your ‘environment’ going – aromatherapy, music, candles. Assisting you with negotiation of your preferences advocating your choices and supporting with no judgment in anyway.
- Photography and/or video if you wish to have mementos of your partner supporting you, the birth itself and those precious first moments as a family, together
I also support with great success mothers having to have a C-section, for some their is no other choice of birth and I endeavor to make this a positive and enriching experience as well. There is so much more to being a Doula then one thinks!
But I do believe the biggest benefit of a doula is that fact that she is a professional birth support person – she has been trained in the art of birth support and has a keen eye and intuition on what a labouring mother needs. Things, which a hospital midwife unfortunately does not have time for, and things which partner may not pick up on (or situations he may not know how to deal with). She is caring and nurturing, always remaining calm and focused even if things might take a turn which was not expected. Family and friends tend to have an emotional connection that can mean in the event of a problem or at the peak intensity moments, they can make choices that are not so favorable simply from not knowing what to do, A doula can think clearly, see pros and cons of any situation and relay them to the couple to make their own decision. When we’re stressed, we don’t make the best decisions, and in hospital, that may make your partner/mother etc. completely agreeable to what’s being put on the table, because they are uncertain or scared. A doula can help explain what’s happening with compassion and without judgment in a non medical way explaining all that is happening so its easier for you to understand.
There are two types of doulas, birth doulas and post-natal doulas, with many doulas performing both roles. I my self also help with breast feeding strategies with great success.
Why hire a Doula?
- A Doula will ensure you have a voice and feel calm and safe.
- Less chance of medical intervention
- Less chance of Post-natal Depression
- Better support for mother and birthing partner
- Shorter labour time
- Calmer and more positive birthing experience
Studies have shown that women who birth with the support of a Doula have less requests for pain relief, less Caesareans, shorter labours and less general medical intervention.
What Are The Proven Benefits Of A Doula?
A recent review of many studies from around the world have concluded that a doula’s support is more effective than hospital staff, friends or family. You can read the review here. Studies (and reviews of the studies) consistently demonstrate very impressive benefits for the mother, father and baby, including:
- 50% fewer caesarean sections
- Reduction in the use of forceps vacuum by 40%
- 60% fewer requests for epidurals
- 40% reduction in the use of synthetic oxytocin for inductions or augmentations
- 30% reduction in use of pain medication
- 25% reduction in labour length
- Increased rates of breastfeeding at 6 weeks post-partum (51% vs 29%)
- Higher self-esteem (74% vs 59%), less anxiety (28% vs 40%) and less depression (10% vs 23%) at 6 weeks post-partum
The benefits are significant. Most of the women in the studies were accompanied by male partners, however study results show that women who had the support of a male partner and a doula fared best, for example, the caesarean rate of women supported by both a male partner and a doula was significantly lower (15.4%) than the caesarean rate for women supported only by their partners (24.4%). The studies also clearly show the positive benefits of doula support occur regardless of a woman’s economic status or whether or not they were privately insured. Its simply about having the right support with you at birth.
What About The Woman’s Partner – Does a Doula Replace Them? According to the studies (and from personal observations in births I have attended) rather than reducing a partner’s participation in the birth process, a doula’s support complements and reinforces their role. Partners feel more enthusiastic confidant and at peace knowing they can contribute to the labour and birth for their partner. I often find when partners have the right frame work to support a woman by watching a doula support her, they feel more confident and relaxing having seen some ideas to try themselves. In the studies, not only did partners report higher levels of satisfaction after the birth, but mothers reported feeling more satisfied with their partner’s role at birth too. Over 30% of women reported that their relationships were better post-birth than they were prior to the birth simply because everyone is finally on the same page …having a great understanding of what’s to come!
What Will My Ob/Midwife Say If I Have a Doula? Obstetricians and midwives are becoming more and more aware of the doula as they become apart of the hospital system, most are very supportive or are not bothered by a doula in fact when short staffed they are such an asset to everyone as they take a load of stress off the staff – Obstetricians and doulas rarely cross paths. If they do, it’s often for a very short time, during the birth and is from my experience a pleasant and welcoming one.
Midwives are always impressed about the benefits and outcomes achieved with women who have a doula at there birth. I hear this time and time again when I’m working in hospitals my self.
Will a Doula replace my Midwife/Obstetrician?
A Doula is a professional birthing support person, not a medically trained Midwife or Obstetrician. A Doula’s role complements the role of the Midwife/Obstetrician in providing a higher level of care for you and your partner. Doulas are becoming more commonplace in the hospital system and Midwives/Obstetricians appreciate the role they play, as the stress is taken off a system that is already overloaded. Midwives are often impressed with the outcomes achieved when a Doula is present at a birth, as mother and baby are much calmer and more relaxed.
Birthing At Home
Do you want to birth at home? A Doula is a wonderful addition to your Licensed Midwife to assist you in creating your ideal homebirth.
A Doula will:
- Attend to your physical needs (hydration, encourage position changes, heat packs, shower immersion)
- Create and maintain a warm, relaxing environment for your labour (i.e. aromatherapy, lighting)
- Provide natural pain relief options (massage, sacral pressure point, meditation, breathing, essential oils)
- Facilitate skin-to-skin contact and feeding immediately after birth, and placenta/cord care
- Actively support and advocate for you (to ensure your preferences are followed as much as possible)
- Provide continuous care for transition to hospital/birthing centres (if required)
- Photograph and/or video the birthing experience so you can just enjoy the moment