Doulas are professionally trained labor support companions, unparalleled to anyone on the mother’s birth team. Our primary role is to provide unbiased, non-judgmental, continuous support to an expectant mother during her pregnancy, labor, and the beginning of the postpartum period. The outcome of the birth process can have a long lasting impact on the physical and mental health of the mother. Because doulas are trained in a plethora of comfort measures, emotional support, the process of childbirth, and potential interventions, we are able to provide the tools a laboring woman may need to greatly improve the birth experience. Doulas provide individualized care to women throughout the entire laboring process, which helps the outcome of her labor, and her emotional wellbeing.
What do doulas do?
- Doulas provide continuous physical and emotional support for the entire duration of her labor. A doula’s care begins during a woman’s pregnancy, where she develops a relationship, provides resources, helps to develop a birth plan, and offers emotional support.
- During labor, a doula can offer comfort measures including but not limited to; physical touch, massage, hot or cold packs, movement/positioning, warm showers/baths, peaceful music, and other soothing gestures.
- Doulas provide evidence based information regarding birth options, interventions, local resources, information on breastfeeding, the postpartum period and more.
- In an instance where the laboring woman is having trouble relaxing, the doula can help calm her with soothing touch, remind her of visualizations and to breathe and exhale gently.
- There are times where a woman’s labor needs help progressing, so the doula can suggest specific positions for optimal fetal positioning vital for proper dilation and effacement.
- The role of a doula is not to overtake the partner’s job, but to work as a team in order to provide the greatest benefit for the birthing woman. If the partner needs to use the restroom, eat a meal, or sleep, a doula can continue providing support so the mother is never alone. Sometimes partners need encouragement, or to be shown how to provide certain comfort measures. A doula can help assist the partner in any way they may need, so they are relaxed and confident during the entire process.
What doulas DO NOT do:
- Doulas do not perform any clinical tasks, such as cervical exams, fetal heart rate, or blood pressure monitoring.
- Doulas do not give medical advice or provide second opinions regarding medical care or diagnoses. For example, if a client needs to be scheduled for a cesarean section, a doula will not disagree with their client’s doctor, but rather will help her client plan a gentle cesarean.
- Doulas will not speak to the medical staff on their client’s behalf, or project their personal beliefs onto their clients.
- Doulas do not make decisions for their clients, but rather provide unbiased support for the decisions they themselves make.
Using a doula can:
Not only do doulas provide emotional and physical support during a woman’s labor, research shows that having a doula can increase her chance of having a successful vaginal birth. According to a study published in 2012 by a Cochrane review, women who had continuous labor support were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have a cesarean section (Hodnett, 2012). Doulas are able to suggest positions which can be optimal for labor progression. They can also empower their clients to discuss further options with their care providers. With continuous support, women are more likely to have unmedicated births and are less likely to use pain medications (Hofmeyr, 1991). When IV or epidural pain medications are used, the likelihood of labor augmentations such as Pitocin and continuous fetal monitoring increases (Caton, 2002). Overall, having a doula provide unconditional labor support has been shown to greatly decrease the need for cesarean sections, augmented labors and pain medicine.
- 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
- 28% decrease in the risk of a cesarean section
- 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
- 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
- 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
- 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience
It is a doulas goal, to help ensure that her client has a safe and satisfying birth experience. Because doulas have vast knowledge and confidence regarding the birth process, we ensure to promote that same confidence upon the laboring mother. A doula will uphold professional, yet compassionate care to provide the services her client desires. It is imperative when choosing a doula, to be sure there is a connection and sense of comfortability. While giving birth, women are in their most vulnerable state; feeling empowered, supported and loved is of utmost priority. Every day around the world, doulas are striving to do their very best for their clients, while improving birth outcomes.
*Photo credit: Michelle Lynn