Labor and birth can be a daunting experience for most women whether it is a first time experience or even a third baby delivery.
While giving birth is a natural process, most women are unaware of their capabilities and level of strength during labor.
A doula is a well-trained professional who provides continuous support at labor to remind you of your capabilities and help you have a better birth outcome. A better birth outcome means you are able to cope with the stressful demands of motherhood.
The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek language meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to experienced professional person who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to mothers before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
Here are ten reasons why you need a doula at your childbirth, although it does not replace a doctor or a midwife.
Science says we need doulas
Scientific evidence shows that doulas prove to be a major asset in modern labor. The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent non-profit organization specializing in evidence based medical research released a report at late October 2012 on the effect of continuous support for women during childbirth, which produced interesting results. Research by the organization, involving twenty-two trials on 15,288 women, showed that where doulas were present:
- Labor time was reduced
- More likely to give birth ‘spontaneously’
- Fewer incidents for the need for a vacuum, forceps and a Caesarean were reported
- The need for epidurals and pain killers was reduced
- Mothers appeared more satisfied with their birth experiences than those who hadn’t had doulas present
A doula can help you understand your options in birth and formulate a birth plan to discuss with your midwife or doctor. Krystina Friedlander, a doula from Cambridge, USA believes that while birth itself can be a little overwhelming, it can be easy to lose sight sometimes of your preferences you have detailed out in a birth plan. A doula will help you communicate to your doctor or midwife during labor, and gently remind them of your choices.
Pain relief techniques
A doula is trained in providing you with alternate ways to manage your labor pain. A doula is not a trained medical professional so they cannot prescribe drugs. However, they do have an expansive knowledge of different techniques or equipment to help the mommy with pain relief.
This would include amongst others a birthing ball, aromatherapy oils, and a rebozo wrap.
Sadiyah Sayed, another doula in Johannesburg, South Africa reminds her clients to make dhikr (prayers and supplications) and if the client is not a Muslim, she still makes dhikr for them in an attempt to make them relax. She points out that in her vast experience women who have a doula, are less likely to request pain medication.
You are never alone
A doula stays with you throughout your labor. She can labor with you at home until you feel ready to go to the hospital or birth centre. Friedlander says that a doula will constantly advise you that you have everything you need, right now, to move past this contraction.
While she is with you, she keeps you in the moment and focused. She will suggest different positions and keep you moving during labor. For example, she can help with positions that aid the baby in rotating and shorten your labor time.
Rena Sassi, a homeopath and doula from Egypt currently studying midwifery in the US, recommends having a doula because she has found that regardless of how wonderful and well prepared a dad might be for birth, he is often so emotionally involved that they too become overwhelmed during the process and also need some support.
A doula and dad complement each other at birth. Sassi says,
“I have found that both mothers and fathers tend to realize the importance of having a doula in retrospect when they are reflecting on the birth.”
She has had an overwhelming and humbling appreciation by all the mothers and fathers she has worked with.
Having a cesarean section is having a baby. Your doula is your support and advocate throughout the preparation for surgery, and depending on hospital policies, she may be able to support you in the operating room as well. She will be at your side in the recovery room and can help you and your family with any questions or concerns that may arise, helping you understand what your care providers are saying, and attending to your comfort and needs.
Part of a certified birth doula’s training puts emphasis on maternal/paternal/infant bonding. The 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.
For those who choose breastfeeding, a doula can guide you in first few hours after baby’s birth on how to breastfeed. These first few hours are crucial to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby.
Once you are at home, a doula may visit you (if you request it) after giving birth to help with breastfeeding, mothering, and your overall wellbeing. This may be as simple as making you a hot drink, bringing you healthy food, or holding your baby while you shower. These things are helpful during post birth period especially, if you do not have other people who will be there for you in a gentle, reassuring and ‘no strings attached’ way.
While a doula will do everything in her power to educate you about the choices you have, she is not there to judge any decision you may take. They create a sacred space where you feel comfortable making your decision. They are also not there to make any decision for you. They are there to empower you. Doulas are not pro anything except pro mothers.
A Holistic Experience
Labor and birth are physical, psychological, and spiritual experiences. The obstetric system primarily focuses on the physical process of birth, with little regard for how the psychological and spiritual aspects can affect the physical process. A doula can help you have an integrated experience and can help identify psychological blocks that can be affecting your labor and birth.
Dr.Kennell, founder of DONA (Doulas of North America), hit the nail on the head when he says,
“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”
First published: March 2013