Many mothers have a tough first labor and birth experience. Sometimes our dreams of a certain birth experience fade as something completely different happens than what we imagined. Much of this could be attributed to stress, exhaustion during labor, or perhaps, some unforeseen circumstance occurred during labor that could not be helped. Evidence shows that if you labor with the support of a doula--Greek for "a woman who serves"--you can greatly increase the chances of having the type of birth you hope for; and with much less chance of medical intervention.
Whether this is your first or a subsequent pregnancy, or whether you are planning to have the birth at a hospital, birth center, or at home, here are the top ten reasons to consider having a doula by your side.
- A doula is there to first and foremost support the mother. She is there to ease and comfort the mother physically, emotionally, and spiritually in any way she can, and she'll never leave your side. Medical staff, while there for you and your baby's medical needs, will most likely will not be able to give constant personal support during your labor like a doula can. A doula will provide an unwavering source of strength, and will also alleviate distress or worry, especially if it is one's first birth. A doula is not there to live out her own dream birth experience, but to help you achieve yours. She is there for YOU.
2. Wisdom and Expertise:
- Nothing can compare with the experience these women have. Good doulas have a great knowledge of local doctors and midwives, and can help you choose the care provider that will work with you to achieve the best birth experience possible. Doulas can also offer the wisdom of having assisted at dozens or even hundreds of births, and are willing to work alongside your midwife or doctor to follow your birth plan.
3. Coping Techniques:
- Doulas are amazingly knowledgeable about natural techniques for coping with pain. From essential oils to massage, from hydrotherapy to positioning, your doula will combine whatever techniques work best for you, along with providing empowering words of comfort, and tailor all of her support to your individual needs.
4. Support for Husband or Labor Partner:
- A doula also supports the father by helping him have better involvement. Doulas may show husbands relaxation techniques to assist their wives. They may also act as a go-between with medical staff allowing the husband to fully concentrate on his wife. "With a doula present, the pressure on the partner is decreased and he or she can participate at his or her own comfort level." (1)
5. Less Chance of Cesarean :
- A Chochrane Review on the subject of continuous support during labor stated, "Women who received continuous labour support were more likely to give birth ’spontaneously’, i.e. give birth with neither caesarean nor vacuum nor forceps". (2) According to Dr. Dekker the rate of c-sections also goes down by 28 %percent, (3) which is furthermore supported by the evidence from various clinical studies."(4)
6. Shorter Labors:
- Clinical studies show that having a doula present can shorten the length of labor, which greatly decreases the need for medical intervention.(1, 2)
7. Less Chance of Medical Intervention:
- In fact, there is a 9% decrease in the need of any medical interventions whatsoever, which includes forceps and vacuum delivery, and a 31% less chance of a need to administer Pitocin. (3)
8. Self Confidence:
- Part of a doula's mission at your birth is to give you the self-confidence and reassurance that you need in one of the toughest times in your life. This is why there is also a 34% (3) decrease of those who say they were unsatisfied with their labor when they had a doula present.
9. Bond Formed Easier with Baby :
- With a 14% less chance of baby needing special medical care, and with studies showing higher Apgar scores (2), the constant presence of a doula at a birth increases the likelihood that mother and baby can immediately begin the important bonding time during those first precious moments after the birth. (5)
10. Better Birthing Experience Overall:
- According to the website "Evidence Based Birth", Dr. Rebecca Dekker states, "non medical support can reduce the risk of complications during labor and delivery and increase the mother's satisfaction for the overall birth experience." She also says that many healthcare providers find that women who labor with a doula's support are "calmer, more satisfied in birth," and have "better outcomes overall". (6)
If you are laboring in a hospital and are interested to learn more about laboring naturally please see our Natural Childbirth: Your In-Hospital Options post.
- Childbirth Connection- Support in Childbirth PDF
Photos courtesy of: Alexia Mansour and butterflychaserphotography.com