What is a Doula?
Doula comes from the Greek word doulē meaning ‘female slave.’ It has come more modernly to mean a woman who is trained to effectively assist another woman in childbirth.
A doula in a more expansive form is a person trained to help mothers (and fathers!) in the preparation, delivery, and postpartum process of giving birth. The doula is not a medically-trained assistant, but rather a skilled professional that provides emotional, informational, physical, educational, and yes, even spiritual support during the birthing process. A doula is trained to provide unbiased support so that the mother can feel confident to make good decisions in a high-pressure environment. The doula will assist in many physical aspects including Rebozo sifting, position changing for optimal delivery, massage, relaxation and breathing techniques, guided imagery, aromatherapy, soothing music and so much more. Their tools usually include a peanut ball, a birthing ball, a rebozo, essential oils, affirmations or scripture cards, their enormous heart, knowledgeable mind, and various experiences.
With the knowledge and experience of a doula, you can be confident that you have someone on your side that will tell you the truth and is not biased or having some kind of agenda other than a healthy mom and baby. She knows your birth plan, and she knows your past birth experiences, she knows what you’re like when you’re coping well, and not so much. She has a hundred good suggestions should you feel the need to try something different. It’s good to have someone truly on your side.
The doula should also know how to facilitate communication between the mom and the care providers. In the chaos and pain and exhaustion, many moms feel left out of the decisions when there isn’t someone there advocating for her. A doula will never speak for you, but rather make sure you understand everything that’s going on, and make sure the doctor is explaining and giving you multiple options. This empowerment has been unbelievably valuable to the vast majority of women with doulas.
The right doula is a calming companion, encouraging the woman to let go and succumb to the wisdom of her body, so her body can successfully birth her baby. When a woman is stressed, fearful, and tense, her body reacts with a fight or flight response that releases chemicals and hormones called Adrenaline, Cortisol, and Norepinephrine. This release can slow or stop the production of Oxytocin, the hormone that causes the contractions in labor, thus slowing down the entire labor and creating more exhaustion, fatigue, inability or self-doubt and thus the process repeats itself. Relaxing is essential to a smooth birthing process.
The ultimate goal of a good doula is to give the mother an experience that’s empowering, healthy, and positive with good memories to last a lifetime.
Why Hire a Doula?
There are good reasons to hire a doula, especially if you will be delivering your first child. The services of the doula are most often reasonably priced and you can set the terms of their participation. But even if they are expensive in your city, you have to decide how important birth is to you.
Physical Benefits for Mom
- Studies have shown a 50% decrease in C-sections when a doula was present.
- overall labor time is typically cut by 25%.
- 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin (an inducing medication).
- 9% decrease in the use of any pain medication.
- 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery.
- 34% increase in birth satisfaction.
- 40% decrease in the use of forceps (A process in which the doctor has to pull the baby out in a hurry because of fetal distress).
Emotional Benefits for the Mom
- Women feel better prepared for the emotional and physical aspects of birth.
- Women feel nurtured and cared for.
- Women are much more highly satisfied with the individual care they receive.
- Women’s individual perception of their labor is much more positive.
- Mothers who are supported by a Birth Doula on average spend more time with their baby.
- Women bond more easily with their babies with a doula’s techniques and education.
- Women feel better prepared to be mothers.
Benefits for Baby
- Shorter hospital stays for baby because babies tend to be healthier with a doula’s continual support.
- Four times more likely to have a healthy birth weight with a doula’s continual support.
- Mothers who were supported by a Birth Doula spend more time with their baby.
- Babies had fewer septic workups.
- Reports show a significant decrease in reports of vomiting, colds or a runny nose, cough, and poor appetite and a significant decrease in reports of diarrhea.
So now is when you decide how important these things are to you. A doctor, nurse, midwife, friend, and partner are all incredible and important pieces to the birth team, but absolutely none of them can take the places statistically of a doula. There is a doula for everyone woman… there is a perfect doula for you.
If you’re wondering how to choose the right doula, that’s my next blog!