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.
Going into my first pregnancy, I knew I wanted a natural delivery and knew I needed some extra support in addition to having my husband there. From my first meeting with Kathy, I knew I wanted her to be by my side on my journey to motherhood. She was a tremendous support during my long labor for both me and my husband. Kathy suggested positions for laboring that helped my body progress while allowing me to follow my body and intuition. Her ability to help alleviate pain through touch and massage was magical and helped me get through the most intense of contractions. During difficult times, Kathy reassured me of my own strength and to surrender to my body’s ability to give birth. She was intuitive and knew just the right words to say in the moment to make me feel strong, capable, and most of all, empowered. My husband and I will be forever grateful to Kathy for the support she gave us during the amazing journey that was our son’s birth. – Shannon