What Is A Doula?

A doula is someone who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the expectant woman and her family before, during and immediately after the birth.

The word doula is a Greek word meaning women’s servant. Women have been serving others in childbirth for many centuries and have proven that support from another woman has a positive impact on the labor process.

A BIRTH DOULA IS PART OF YOUR TEAM

While your OBGYN or midwife will handle your medical needs, your doula’ll be by your side for emotional, physical and informational childbirth support. Here are just a few things a doula provides:

Educational support. You’ll have endless questions leading up to your birth, when labor begins, during labor and after the birth. If you have any questions, you don’t have to wait for your next prenatal visit, you can text, email or call her at any time. 

Labor pain relief. Doula’s provide a variety of comfort measures to guide you through your labor and birth, including massage and guidance on birth positions.

Continuous support during labor. At your birth, you’re her only client and focus, and most of your time laboring will be spent with her. While your midwife or OBGYN may be splitting their time between different patients, your doula is exclusively devoted to you. 

Objective information. When decisions arise during your labor, as your doula, she’ll provide objective, calm and steady information to help guide your choices. She will help facilitate conversations between you and your medical provider, and recommend the right questions to ask.  

Emotional strength. Your body is made to birth a baby. As a kind and compassionate birth expert, she will reassure you and help you feel secure in the birth process, while working to help you achieve your birth goals.

What Does A Doula Do?

Most doula-client relationships begin a few months before the baby is due. During this period, they develop a relationship in which the mother feels free to ask questions, express her fears and concerns, and take an active role in creating a birth plan.

Most doulas make themselves available to the mother by phone in order to respond to her questions or address any concerns that might arise during the course of the pregnancy. Doulas do not provide any type of medical care. However, they are knowledgeable in many medical aspects of labor and delivery.

As such, they can help their clients gain a better understanding of the procedures and possible complications in late pregnancy or delivery.

During delivery, doulas are in constant and close proximity to the mother. They have the ability to provide comfort with pain-relief techniques including breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and laboring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance.

A doula acts as an advocate for the mother, encouraging and helping her fulfill specific desires she might have for her birth. The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth, whether an un-medicated birth or a cesarean.

After the birth, many labor doulas will spend time helping mothers begin the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the new baby and other family members.

Benefits Of Hiring A Doula

Numerous studies have documented the benefits of having a doula present during labor. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. With the support of a doula, women were less likely to have pain-relief medications administered and less likely to have a cesarean birth. Women also reported having a more positive childbirth experience.

Other studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40%, and requests for an epidural by 60%.2

Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor. According to physicians Marshal Klaus and John Kennell, massage helps stimulate the production of natural oxytocin. The pituitary gland secretes natural oxytocin to the bloodstream (causing uterine contractions) and to the brain (resulting in feelings of well-being and drowsiness, along with a higher pain threshold).

Historically it was thought that intravenous oxytocin does not cross from the bloodstream into the brain in substantial amounts and, therefore, does not provide the same psychological benefits as natural oxytocin. However, more recent studies indicate that oxytocin administered nasally and/or intravenously may cross from the bloodstream into the brain. Nonetheless, doulas can help mothers experience the benefits of oxytocin naturally without the use of medication.

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