I’ve had a birth doula present at 3 of my four births, and at the birth where a doula was not present I had a 50+ hour labor, an epidural, a vacuum delivery, an episiotomy, and many regrets. Sure, in the end a healthy mom and baby is what counts, but having a doula at your birth can make the experience a whole lot better!
Since 1980, research has been done to determine the benefits of doula assisted births. These studies showed that there were significant decreases in birth interventions including:
- 50 % decrease in cesarean births
- 60 % decrease in epidurals
- 40 % decrease in the use of Pitocin
- 30% decrease in the use of narcotics
- 30% decrease in the use of forceps
- Overall, a 25% decrease in the length of labor
In addition, research also shows parents who receive good support during labor:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse
A doula “mothers the mother”, and offers continuous support that most doctors, midwives, and labor nurses simply don’t have time to give. During most hospital births, the doctor checks in once or twice before being called in to deliver the baby, and labor nurses are busy juggling multiple patients at once. Aside from the woman’s partner and any family members attending the birth, a doula is the one constant source of support present throughout the birthing journey. She comforts, listens, informs, and helps protect the birthing experience as an advocate, helping communicate the birthing mother’s wishes to the medical staff.
In addition to supporting the birthing mother, a doula can also help the partner and other family members feel more at ease, resulting in a less stressful environment for all. Often times the father or partner wants to help the laboring mother, but doesn’t know how- a doula can show him what to do. When a nurse says the mother is 2 centimeters dilated, 50% effaced, and a -2 station, a doula can explain what that means. When a birth doesn’t go according to plan, the doula can help the mother and partner look at all possible options and make an informed decision they both feel good about.
If the birthing mother wishes to avoid pain medications, a doula can greatly increase her chances of success. Partners and family members often have a hard time seeing their loved one in pain, while a doula can reassure the mother what she’s feeling is normal, offer coping techniques, and empower the birthing mama to make it through drug free.
A doula can also be helpful to women who plan to use pain medication and/or epidural anesthesia. Giving birth is much more than a medical procedure. It is an emotional as well as a physical journey, and having a doula can help smooth the transition from pregnancy into parenthood. Epidurals do not hold your hand, rub your shoulders, or explain what is happening. Epidurals cannot suggest position changes to help your labor progress. Epidurals will never advocate for you, or help you get what you need from the hospital staff. Simply put, an epidural does not replace a doula.
When a doula is present before, during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression. No matter what kind of birth you desire, a doula truly can help you have a better birth!