What is a doula?
A doula is a professionally trained woman who is knowledgeable about pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care.
A doula works in cooperation with the mother’s “team,” including the doctors, nurses, midwives, partner and family. She does not replace anyone else on the birth team.
She is educated about the emotional and physiological changes that occur during pregnancy and labor, and can inform you when you make decisions about your birth.
A doula believes that childbirth is a normal, healthy process for a woman’s body and seeks to preserve that process during labor.
She is an advocate for you and your birth preferences. Anyone can use a doula, whether you want a natural birth, medical interventions, or a cesarean.
In a meta-analysis of studies on labor support, the presence of a doula in the labor and delivery room has been shown to help reduce:
• Cesarean rate by 45 percent
• Length of labor by 25 percent
• Pitocin use by 50 percent
• Pain medication by 31 percent
• Forceps deliveries by 34 percent
• Requests for epidurals by 10-60 percent
(Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus. The Doula Book. Da Capo Press,: Cambridge, MA, 2002.)
Your doula will provide you and your partner with continuous care, support, and encouragement throughout labor and delivery. Specifically, she will provide:
• Prenatal home visits
• Assistance when writing a birth plan
• An objective viewpoint and information about labor and delivery choices
• Suggestions to ease discomfort in pregnancy and postpartum
• Continuous emotional and physical support throughout the entire labor and birth, unlike most nurses, midwives, or doctors
• Suggestions and physical assistance for pain management and relaxation techniques during labor such as body positioning, massage, aromatherapy, using a birth ball, hydrotherapy, breathing, and focusing, which will help speed labor and prevent unnecessary interventions
• Explanations of medical procedures and terms to help you make informed decisions
• Clear communication between you, your partner, and the medical staff
• Comfort and reassurance to your partner, so he or she can better love and encourage you
• Postpartum home visits and help