What is a Birth Doula?
A birth doula is a person who is trained and experienced with childbirth. Birth doulas are generally involved with an expectant mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth. In other words, a birth doula is an expert labor and delivery assistant.
Ten Reasons to Hire a Birth Doula
Birth Doulas Enhance the Birth Experience: You may forget what it felt like to take your first “legal” drink, but you’ll never forget the birth of your children. The birth doula’s role in labor and delivery is to anticipate your needs and help carry out your wishes. The birth doula is there to provide continuous physical and emotional support.
Assistance with Creating and Maintaining a “Birth Plan”: A birth plan is a document that spells out in writing your wishes for your labor and delivery. If you’re planning a hospital birth, the birth plan would be shown to your doctor, hopefully before you would go into labor. Most doctors and hospitals adhere to expectant mother’s birth plans, as long as it does not compromise the mother's or expectant child’s health. A birth doula can help an expectant mother create her birth plan. Once the woman is in labor, the birth doula would be there to support and encourage the woman, according to her wishes. The birth doula, however, is not in the position to make demands on your behalf. The birth doula also cannot force you to adhere to your birth plan or withhold pain medication. The birth doula’s role is to encourage you the best they can to follow your wishes.
Enhance the Birth Experience for Expectant Partners: A birth doula is not there to take the place of the partner. With the doula’s experience, they are better able to assist the partner and guide them on ways to better assist the laboring mother. The doula and the partner’s roles complement each other.
Full One on One Care/Support: Many people believe they will receive all the care and attention they will need from their doctors and nurses. If you’re planning a hospital birth, chances are good that you will not be the only patient. Doctors and nurses are there to monitor your health and labor progress along with every other laboring mom. The birth doula is there solely for you. They do not work with other moms while you’re in labor. Doulas also do not work in shifts. You will have the same doula at your side for the entire birth experience.
A decrease in the Incidence of Use of Pain Medication: Many expectant moms choose to forego the use of pain medication during childbirth. The doula’s role is to assist and encourage the birthing mother the best they can to adhere to those wishes. The continual physical and emotional support offered helps laboring moms cope with the pain and discomfort, making labor pain management much more likely without the use of drugs.
Assists with Breast Feeding: For those who choose to breastfeed, research has indicated that women who choose birth doulas have a better success rate with breastfeeding than those who do not. The doula is there to offer guidance and support with breastfeeding, per their training and education.
Increases Better Bonding: Part of a certified birth doula’s training places emphasis on maternal/paternal/infant bonding. The birth doula recognizes the importance of those first few minutes/hours after birth with bonding. Research indicates families who have used birth doulas have a higher recorded incidence of maternal/paternal bonding than those who have not. This does not mean that you have to use a birth doula in order to bond with your baby; it just shows that the birth doula’s presence is a factor in bonding success for all parties.
Decreased Incidence of Postpartum Depression: Women who use birth doulas appear to have more confidence and feel empowered by their birth experience. A common complaint from women who have/had suffered from postpartum depression is unsatisfactory or complicated births. We already know that birth doulas can play a role in overall childbirth satisfaction.
Birth Doulas Assist with Communication: While a birth doula can not give medical advice, perform diagnostic tests, or diagnose problems, they can, however, promote positive communication between you, your partner, and the hospital staff. Many women feel overwhelmed or helpless during labor. The birth doula’s role is to help as your advocate.
Birth Doulas are Relatively Low Cost and Recommended: Clinical researchers as well as major health organizations such as The WHO recommend continual labor support. Birth doulas are shown to reduce labor times and improve the overall satisfaction of the birth experience. Many insurance plans also cover birth doula services. Doulas are certified by Doulas of North America. To find a doula near you and assistance with choosing a doula, visit www.dona.org.
© Rebecca Pillar 2008