I did not have a doula when my children were born, because I had the loving care of two midwives attending our homebirths. If I was planning a hospital birth or wanted a little more support at home, I would definitely find a doula. What is a doula? Doulas is an ancient Greek word meaning “handmaid”.
According to Wikipedia, “A doula is an experienced, non-medical assistant who provides physical, emotional and informed choice support in prenatal care, during childbirth and during the postpartum period.” Dona International further explains:
Giving birth to a baby is so much more than a physical phenomenon; it engages parents-to-be in a transformational experience, a key life event full of emotion and meaning. A doula who accompanies a woman in labor mothers the mother, taking care of her emotional needs throughout childbirth. A doula also provides support and suggestions for partners that can enhance their experiences of birth. A postpartum doula continues that valuable emotional support and guidance, helping a family make a smooth transition into new family dynamics.
I’ve heard expectant mothers and fathers ask why they would need extra emotional support when they have each other or loved ones attending their births. The truth is, if you are planning a natural child birth (or even labor assisted with pain medication), things will come up that will require someone to advocate for what you want. Your husband or partner should not have to divert his/her attention away from the you. As a laboring mothering, you certainly won’t be running to the nurse’s station or hunting down doctors. DONA explains the benefits of doulas:
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
- Tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- Reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- Reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- Reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
Research shows parents who receive support can:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse
Given the positive benefits of having doulas support mothers, the value of this service should be promoted, in my opinion.
Image courtesy of Birth Doulas of Pittsburgh.