What is a Doula?
A doula is a woman who is trained to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to mothers-to-be and their partners before, during labour and birth, and postpartum.
Doulas work alongside physicians, midwives, nurses, and birth partners. Experienced, certified doulas are considered part of the obstetric team in many countries, as they help couples minimize obstetrical intervention through informational and emotional support, and maximize their satisfaction with their birth experiences.
Numerous studies have shown that the presence of a doula at a birth results in:
- 50% reduction in caesarean rates*
- 40% reduction in forceps deliveries*
- 25% shorter labours*
- 60% reduction in epidural requests*
- 40% reduction in oxytocin (Pitocin) use*
- better mother-infant bonding*
- 30% reduction in analgesia use*
- reduced post-partum depression*
*(Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth), Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus
Experiences of women who had continuous support in labor included:
- Labour better than expected
- A more positive overall experience
- Women more likely to be breastfeeding at 6 weeks
- Less depression at 6 weeks
- Less difficulty mothering
Hodnett, E.D. (2002) Caregiver support for women during childbirth (Cochrane Review). COCHRANE. The Pregnancy and Childbirth Database. The Cochrane Collaboration. CD ROM: Issue 1. Oxford.
How do doulas differ from midwives?
Doulas do not provide clinical tasks. Non-medical skills include explanations of medical procedures, 24 hour informational support during pregnancy and postpartum, positioning suggestions during labour and birth, massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures, reassurance, help with breastfeeding preparation and beginnings, and most importantly, a constant nurturing, helpful and objective support as well as first-hand knowledge and understanding of what the labouring mother is going through. This benefits both the mother and father-to-be.
Does a doula replace the father’s or the birth partner’s role?
On the contrary! Her presence strengthens the father’s role. Pressure to know how to help the labouring mother is removed. The doula anticipates the physical and emotional needs of the labouring mother as labour progresses, and helps the father to better help his partner during this trying time.