When it comes to pregnancy and preparing for birth, there is so much information out there. You have various books, websites, and childbirth classes to gather information. There are countless options for pain management, pushing techniques, and even where to give birth. Then there is who can be a part of your support team: your husband/partner, family, friends, what type of provider you would like, and then there is a birth doula.
Some of you may have heard the term 'birth doula' before and for some it may be a completely new concept. So what exactly is a doula and how can hiring one change my birth experience?
What is a Doula?
A doula is a trained and certified birth professional who provides the mother and her husband/partner with constant physical and emotional support throughout labor and birth. A doula is different from a midwife in that they never provide any medical examination or medical advice. You work with your doula throughout your pregnancy to help you mentally and even physically prepare for your birth, and then they will be present with you throughout your laboring process, through the birth of your child, and even remain with you for the immediate postpartum period to make sure your new family is comfortable before departing.
What Type of Support Is Given?
The support provided by a doula can vary from doula to doula, but typically they will meet with the family throughout the pregnancy to talk about the birth plan, what the families desires are for their labor and birth, and how they can even prepare for the postpartum period directly after giving birth. For example, I like to meet with my families three times before their due date to talk about desires, fears, and birth plan, talk about preparing for the postpartum and breastfeeding experience to help make the transition smoother, and then the last meeting is going over and talking about different comfort measures that can be used throughout labor to help make the mother as comfortable as she can be through her contractions.
Another vital aspect of support provided by doulas is that your doula is for sure another person that you will know in the room during your birth. For most families, giving birth in a hospital means that you may not know which doctor will be on call, and you certainly will not know the nursing staff when you arrive, due to their own scheduling. Nurses and doctors/midwives have other mothers they need to attend to as well, so they will only occasionally be in the room with you to check on your vitals and see how the baby is doing. A doula will remain in the room with you the entire time, allowing for the mother to never be alone, but also to give her husband/partner rest and relief from his support role when needed.
Benefits of a Doula
There are many benefits of hiring a birth doula to provide that constant support. In a study, that was conducted, families who hired a doula to provide continuous support throughout the mother's labor saw:
- increase birth satisfaction by 31%
-decrease in c-section rates by 39%
-decrease in the use of Pitocin to move labor along by 31%
-a shorter labor period by 41 minutes
Bohren MA, et al, Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 7.
What to Do If You're Still Not Sure
If you are wavering about hiring a doula, there are a few things you can do:
-read some birth stories of people who had a doula present
-see the benefits of hiring a doula from Evidence Based Birth
-talk with a doula about having a free meeting to ask what they provide and how they can serve your family
Hiring a doula is an investment, but it is an investment in the start of a beautiful new phase of life. It can help reduce fears and anxieties you may be having towards labor, it may help you to feel more in control of your options and choices for birth, and it may provide additional comfort for you and your husband/partner to know there will be another familiar face who knows your wants in the room.