How would you like to:
Reduce your labor time by 25 percent
Reduce your chances of having a cesarean by 50 percent
Reduce the likelihood that you will need interventions such as pitocin, forceps, or vacuum extraction by up to 40 percent
Reduce the likelihood that you will ask for pain medication or an epidural by as much as 60 percent
Decrease the likelihood that you will experience postpartum depression
Improve your bonding experience with you baby
Learn to breastfeed with greater ease
Feel that you have had an overall fantastic labor and birth experience.
If that sounds good to you—and it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t sound good to any woman—then consider hiring a doula.
What is a Doula?
The word doula is derived from ancient Greek, and it means “woman caregiver of another woman”. The word was revived by author Dana Raphael in her book The Tender Gift, about the positive impact of women helping women give birth. Today, doula signifies a woman, hired by the expectant parents, to “mother the mother”. Other names for a doula include labor coach, monitrice, labor assistant, birth assistant, and labor companion.
Doulas, or their equivalents, are common in many other countries, such as Holland, where they are considered a necessity. Here in the United States, we are just beginning to appreciate what doulas can do for us.
There are two types of doulas. A postpartum doula can help you once you are home to take care of the baby, cook, and care for you. A labor doula helps a woman through the process of birth and labor in any setting: at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital. She is not a midwife, although she has probably witnessed many births and is very knowledgeable about how to cope with pain during labor. A doula is there just for you—she will be your best advocate and greatest source of comfort throughout your birth experience. A doula serves as the link between the physical, emotional, and spiritual parts of labor and birth.
A birth doula may:
Meet with you before your due date to plan for the birth and to discuss any questions you might have, or address any of your concerns.
Give you prenatal tips on exercise, nutrition, and relaxation techniques.
Help you at home after labor begins and help to transport you if you are going to a hospital or birth center.
Attend you throughout your labor, from beginning to end. Half of all hospitals are short-staffed, and doctors, nurses, midwives, even your family and friends, may come and go—but not your doula.
Recognize where you are in the labor process by observing your facial expressions and speech, as well as acting as your ally and communicating your needs to health care personnel.
Help you to cope with pain using natural techniques, such as massage, for example.
Explain what is happening to you each step of the way.
Help you with breastfeeding and explain newborn tests to you.
The benefits of doulas have been shown in 14 controlled trials in several countries, and the results have been reported in highly respected publications. Most of these trials noted that touch and words of encouragement were particularly effective tools used by doulas.
Follow this link to locate a doula in your area. Then check out our list of questions to ask prospective doulas.