What is a birth doula’s role?
A birth doula is a trained professional who offers emotional, physical, and educational support to those who are pregnant, in labor, in the postpartum period, and beyond.
A doula does not replace medical personnel, such as a midwife or doctor, but supplements their care. A doula should be familiar with various positions that a woman can assume to progress labor or help make her more comfortable. A doula may remind the family of the things that they have learned in their childbirth classes. A birth doula can also provide hands on, physical comfort measures such as massage and counter-pressure.
Emotionally, a doula can also be an asset. As someone who may be familiar with labor or who may have experienced labor herself, she can recognize what words or affirmations can be helpful to a woman struggling in labor. Since a doula typically has some training or at least experience being around birth, she can also recognize where a woman is in labor and be a knowledgeable comfort to the family, letting them know that they are close to the end or when they should head to their birth place.
The benefits of having a birth doula include:
- Improved labor outcomes: Studies have shown that having a birth doula present during labor decreases the need for medical interventions, such as cesarean delivery, as well as the use of pain medication.
- Increased satisfaction: Women who have a birth doula present during labor and delivery often report higher rates of overall satisfaction with their birth experience.
- Increased confidence: Birth doulas provide emotional and physical support throughout the labor and delivery process, which can help to increase a woman’s confidence in her ability to give birth.
- Continuous support: A birth doula is available to provide continuous support throughout labor and delivery, which can help to reduce fear and anxiety.
- Specialized knowledge: Birth doulas are trained in the labor and delivery process, which can help to provide peace of mind for expectant mothers.
- Postpartum care: Birth doulas often provide postpartum care, which can help to facilitate the transition to parenthood and provide additional education and resources.
Benefits of a doula to the birth partner
It is important to note that the doula doesn’t just benefit the mother, but can be incredibly helpful to partners without replacing their important role. A woman’s partner knows her on a personal level and can help her in ways that nobody else can. They have, hopefully, taken birth classes with her and learned some of the basics of birth and labor.
Sometimes, couples who prepare well together don’t feel the need for a doula, but they shouldn’t dismiss the idea altogether. During labor and birth, an extra pair of hands is almost always helpful. The doula can do hands on things and can comfort the mother, but she can also give dad a break when he needs a nap or a bathroom run. She can even help with food preparation or caring for other children, if that is what you specifically hire her to do.
The presence of a warm, knowledgeable, and skilled doula is something that, very often, the PARTNER is more grateful for than the birthing mother!
How do I find a doula?
How do you find a doula that is right for you? Start by simply talking to other people in your community. Friends, your childbirth educator, your provider, and anybody else you may know who is familiar with doulas can be helpful in getting you started in the right direction.
Check to see if there is a professional doula in your area. These doulas have been through rigorous in-person training as well as academic reading and reports.
Sometimes local birth networks, hospitals, or birth centers have Meet the Doula events where you can come and meet many local doulas and find one who works best for your family.
The benefits of birth doula support can have a measurably positive impact on birth outcome, lowering intervention rates, lowering cesarean section rates, improving infant APGAR scores, and even improving breastfeeding success. A doula can benefit the birthing person, their partner, and the baby and is often an investment the family is grateful they made.