What is a Doula?
The word doula is actually derived from the greek word meaning "a woman who serves." It is now often used to describe someone who provides physical and emotional support to woman in labor. A doula nurtures and protects a woman's birth experience by providing evidenced based information, and experience and methods to ensure comfort during labor for a mother and her partner.
Why would I want a Doula?
According to Evidenced Based Birth studies have shown having a doula can result in a,
31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
28% decrease in the risk of C-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
Most importantly, however, a doula reminds women in labor that they are in control and to follow their instincts, whatever direction their instincts takes them. The result; a birth a woman is proud of no matter the circumstances.
There are various reasons a doula is able help in the bulleted areas above but mainly these percentages are the result of a doula providing quality support and evidenced based information throughout pregnancy, labor and birth. Long ago we were able to rely on the experience of our mothers and our mother's mothers as well as family and local community as we progressed through pregnancy and childbirth. Unfortunately, people today have become more isolated, moving further and further from their families, making it difficult to find the support needed by someone who is not only experienced in birth but also able to care for our emotional well being. Society has turned birth into a medical emergency, making what should be a magical experience into an anxiety filled labrynth. A doula provides a constant at a time when doctors and midwives have an increase in clients and are unable to give each mother the one on one attention they deserve and need.
What does a Doula not do?
A doula is not your midwife and is unable and untrained to perform any clinical acts such as cervical checks, or provide medical advice or prescriptions.
While a doula is an advocate for you, they are unable to speak on you or your partners behalf. A doula is able to, however, narrate what is happening in any given situation and provide information to encourage mom or partner to ask the right questions, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
A professional doula will never tell you what you should or should not do, but will tell you the pros and cons for each option based on evidence based information.
Does a Doula take over the Role of my Husband/Partner?
A doula provides comfort and knowledge to not only a laboring mother but also her partner. With the support of a doula, a partner is able to know how best they are able to help as well as have assurance everything is going smoothly. Not only is this support good for the partners confidence, but it is vital for a laboring mom when environment is everything. You can read more about this in this article from motherscircle.net
The bond a woman has with her partner/husband is impossible to replicate. My particular style as a doula is to encourage mom and partner (when available and willing) to be as close as possible throughout labor as the comfort they feel in one in another is what will ultimately shorten labor by increasing oxytocin levels while also giving both parents a more positive bonding experience.
What if I plan on receiving an epidural or have a scheduled C-Section?
Planning on an epidural?
Plenty, if not most, woman receive an epidural for pain, some planned and some unplanned. A doula is able to support a laboring mom planning on receiving an epidural the same as one who is not. Many hospitals will only begin to administer anesthesia when a laboring woman is at least 4-5cm dilated. A doula supports a mom before during and after it is adminstered. Often times women are able to labor a longer amount of time with a doula lessening the chances of a needed c-section, or forceps/vaccum assisted deliver. Once a mom receives an epidural a doula helps keep mom and partner in the know to make decisions that are best for them as well as keep mom moving as much as possible in the bed for opitmal fetal positioning. Whether a mom receives an epidural or not a doula is there throughout the labor to keep mom and partner feeling in control and as emotionally at peace as possible.
Scheduled a c-section?
If a mom has a scheduled c-section, there are plenty of things a doula is able to do beyond helping the mom throughout pregnancy. Before a c-section a doula is able to stay with the mom, calming her and her partner before the surgery, which often brings about all kinds of emotions. After the c-section, when the partner will need to stay with the baby, a doula is able to stay with the mom so she is not alone, keeping her updated on the process as well as simply providing comfort. A doula is also able to document the birth, write a birth story, take pictures (if allowable by the hospital), and help with breastfeeding.
What if the doula is unable to attend my birth at the last minute?
In the event an emergency or prior committment coincides with the day a mom goes into labor I will always have one - two back up doulas for the mom to call. I have a thorough list of wonderful doulas who I know personally and would trust at my own birth.