Many pregnant women have heard of doulas, but wonder why they would need one. Aren’t they expensive? (Yes, but worth it. More on that later) Why do I need one when I have my husband? The nurses? The doctor or midwife?
First of all, a doula is a professional in something that none of the above people are, and that is called ‘labor support.’ While your husband may be fantastic at many things, he has probably not received this training. In addition, a doula can help your husband or partner be a more full participant in the experience. A laboring woman often needs many things at once. Someone to hold her hand, and speak encouraging words. Another to rub her sore neck or spray cool water in her hair. Another person (or better yet two) providing counter pressure to her lower back, hips, and buttocks in order to help her manage the contractions better. One or more people are often required to help a laboring woman change positions, especially if she is in a hospital bed and hooked up to an IV, External Fetal Monitor, and other devices. Someone is needed to grab snacks and drinks for dad and other people who might be helping mom. Everyone uses the bathroom at some point! Someone is needed to prepare the warm or cool compresses, change the radio because mom hates the song, dim the lights, etc. One’s partner simply cannot be all of these people at once. And if he is, he is not participating fully in the experience. If mom wants him up by her head, talking her through the contractions, who is providing counterpressure from behind?
Labor and Delivery nurses often receive very little (if any) training in labor support. They have a lot of other work to do! They often have more than one laboring patient at a time and are responsible for watching all of the machines, coordinating medications, informing the doctor of any changes, and a ton of other tasks. In the United States, it is nearly unheard of for a doctor to provide labor support in the delivery room. Doctors are often accessible only to the nurse, by phone, until birth is imminent.
Having a doula is like having a person pregnancy and birth concierge. She is basically there to do everything she can to make you more comfortable during this incredibly important transition from pregnancy to growing family. A doula provides education about the physiology of labor and birth, what to expect at your local hospital (she has experience there, so she knows!), what to expect when you go home, a list of referrals for problems that might arise, and more! She provides the physical and emotional support that is so crucial to relieving the pain and stress of labor. It’s hard work having a baby! Every woman deserves the support to make it easier.
Many of our most staunch supporters are dads. Fathers who experience birth with a doula report that they feel much more connected to their wife and baby, as they were relieved of a lot of the mundane duties that would have detracted from the experience.
Many studies also report on the benefits of having a doula, and they go far beyond just the emotional benefits for mom and dad! An in depth study can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21328263
Read one of our favorite articles here, from Evidence Based Birth: http://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/
Salient points include these: the presence of continuous labor support (i.e. a doula) decreased the use of epidural anesthesia, decreased the rates of instrumental delivery (forceps or vacuum), decreased the rates of cesarean section, increased breast feeding rates, and increased maternal satisfaction with both partner and baby.
There are countless other benefits to having a doula, and be sure that we will continue to make our community aware of them!