What is a doula?
Doula is the Greek word to mean women’s servant; however, the definition has come to be known as a women who is experienced in child birth. She provides continuous physical and emotional support during and after labor.
What does a doula do?
A doula has many jobs that she does for the family. First we ensure that her care is individual and focused on her needs and wants. Doulas help in education and decision making process of where a woman will birth; hospital, home, birth center, or other. Doulas assist in helping in creating a birth vision/plan by providing education and information on the questions that the family has. Usually a doula meets with the family a couple times before delivery to establish a relationship; this way the family can gain confidence in her to ask questions that mom needs answered.
Before labor begins a doula is usually available to the mother by phone, text and email as much as the mother needs it. When in labor, a doula can help the mother determine if they are in-fact in labor. Doulas support the mother in staying home longer or going to the hospital. During your labor, the goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth (American Pregnancy Association; is a doula for me? retrieved from americanpregnacy.org). Doulas help advocate on behalf of the mother; providing her with information about what is going on with her and her body, medication, and achieving a positive outcome determined by her birth plan. If the birth does not go as planned, a doula can provide information on what is going on and encourage the couple to ask questions and take the time needed to make an informed decision about proposed interventions. Even though your delivery did not go as planned, it was still the best possible delivery for the mother. Throughout the birthing process, a doula provides continuous emotional, physical and informational support. Doulas will often stay for some time after the birth as well to help with breastfeeding support. Doulas can offer coping techniques such as breathing, guided-relaxation, position changes and massage. Touch massage has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety during birth, quotes the American Pregnancy Association. Marshal Klaus and John Kennell wrote that massage helps stimulate the production of natural oxytocin. The pituitary gland secrets natural oxytocin to the bloodstream, causing uterine contractions, and to the brain resulting in a feeling of well-being, drowsiness and higher pain threshold. By contrast, because synthetic IV oxytocin cannot cross into both the blood stream and the brain, it increases contractions without positive psychological benefits of natural oxytocin.
Help During Labor
A doula will come to the family home at the beginning of labor, or whenever the family is ready for her in early labor and stay with her throughout; offering physical support such as, counter pressure, massage, walking, bathing or showering. A doula also provides the following emotional support; encouragement, confidence, and reassurance. A doula will support the mother in her choices such as if she wishes for a natural medication free labor, she will help the family in achieving their birth plan, and calm your fears. Fathers are a large part of the birthing process offering emotional support; however, fathers may struggle seeing his wife in so much pain, a doula can support the father by alleviating the burden place on him during delivery. A doula’s role is not to take the place of the father but to enhance and improve their experience. Fathers are free to help and be involved as much as they can, while doulas encourage the use of comfort measures and step in if he needs a break. While interviewing fathers Scott, Klaus and Klaus (1999) had one physician-father note, “I’ve run a number of marathons, I’ve done a lot of hiking with a heavy backpack, and I’ve worked for 40 hours straight on-call, but going through labor with my wife was more exhausting than any of these experiences. After delivery, a doula will stay approximately 2 hours to help with questions on breastfeeding, care and skin to skin contact.
- 50% reduction in caesarean delivery
- 25% shorter labor
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 30-40% reduction in forceps
- 40% reduction in oxytocin
- In a study, of women whom gave birth with just her partner there was a rate of 22.5% caesarean, compared to 12.2 with a father doula team.
Right After Delivery
- Mom was observed through a 2 way mirror doing more stroking, cuddling, Kissing and petting of her baby.
6 Weeks After Delivery
- 51% of women who had a doula were still breastfeeding compared to 29% of women without a doula
- Women reported reduced anxiety and depression
- Increased levels of self esteem
- Rated their baby better than a standard baby
- Rated their baby as more beautiful and cleaver
- Reported that their baby as easier to manage.
(The Obstetrical and Postpartum Benefits of Continuous support during Childbirth; Scott, Klaus and Klaus., 1999)
Questions to Ask A Doula:
The most important thing is to choose a doula that you are comfortable with and feel a connection too. Interviewing a doula in no way obligates you to hire them. Interview until you find a doula that best serves your needs.
- What training have you had?
- What services do you provide?
- What are your fees?
- Are you available for my due date?
- What made you become a doula?
- What is your philosophy regarding child birth?
- Would you be available to meet me before the birth to discuss my birth plan?
- What happens if for some reason you are not available at the time of my birth?
Questions taken from; Is a Doula For Me; www.americanpregnacy.org