What is a labor doula?
Doula is Greek word whose definition has come to mean a woman who helps other women. The word has further evolved to mean: A woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, spiritual and informational support to the mother before during and after childbirth. A doula does not speak for a couple or provide medical or clinical skills.
A doula provides:
- Explanations of medical procedures
- Emotional support
- Advice during pregnancy
- Exercise and physical suggestions to make pregnancy more comfortable
- Help with preparation of a birth plan
- Massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures
- Positioning suggestions during labor and birth
- Helps support the partner so that they can love and encourage the laboring woman
- Assistance in avoiding unnecessary interventions
- Help with breastfeeding preparation and the first session
- A written record of the birth
Why should I hire a labor doula?
Labor Doula’s can help take the stress out of labor and delivery. They are there to “mother the mother” (and her partner) with comfort measures, education and constant support before, during and after the birth. They stay with the mom from laboring at home, until after the first breastfeeding session, while L& D nurses change with the shifts. If a non-medicated birth is desired, statistics show that doula assisted births are more successful in reducing or eliminating interventions and the unplanned use of medication for pain.
According to Mothering the Mother, How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth, by Kennell, Klaus, and Kennell (1993), having a doula can give you a:
- 50% reduction in cesarean rates
- 25% shorter labor
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 40% reduction in oxytocin (pitocin) use
- 30% reduction in analgesia use
- 40% reduction in forceps delivery
How many times will me meet?
A labor doula and prospective parents can meet as many as 6 or as few as 2 times prior to the birth. It really depends on what information needs to be covered and how much time the couple wants to devote to these prenatal sessions. The first meeting is usually a get to know each other session (generally at a coffee shop), where both the doula and the prospective parents can determine if they are a good fit.
If I am planning an epidural or c-section is a doula still needed?
Yes. With a c-section (planned or unplanned) the doula is not allowed in the surgery, however, they can be with the mom before the surgery and during recovery. Often with a c-section, the baby may need a nursery visit and the partner can stay with the baby and know that the mom is not alone. Once the baby and mom are reunited, the doula can help facilitate breastfeeding. In the case of a planned epidural, comfort measures, support for the parents-to-be and education are still very important. Usually, an epidural is not administered until the cervix is dilated to 4cm, so it is important to have a plan to address the contractions that will be felt prior to the administration of the epidural.
What is Doula Deliveries’ philosophy on being a doula?
For me, it is an honor to be invited to attend a birth. My job is to educate the parents on all the options available and help them determine what would constitute their “perfect birth.” We do not know how labor will unfold, so flexibility is important. We try and help the birth experience be as close to the parents desires as possible and to make the experience as easeful, peaceful and enjoyable as possible.
Will my partner or spouse feel “left out” if there is a doula at the birth?
No. A doula can help engage the partner in the birth and support them. She is supportive to both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable. Often, the partner feels stress if they are the sole support person. Having a professional birth assistant who has attended numerous births helps to ease that stress and take some pressure off of the partner.
What effects does the presence of a doula have on the mother?
When a doula is present during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression.
What effects does the presence of doulas have on babies?
Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.
Does a doula replace nursing staff?
No. Doulas do not replace nurses or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals.
Does a doula make decisions on my behalf?
A doula does not make decisions for clients or intervene in their clinical care. She provides informational and emotional support, while respecting a woman’s decisions.