Benefits of Doulas

New FamilyFor thousands of years women have had the support of understanding, experienced mothers throughout labor and the postpartum period. New research suggests that they were wise to do so. The benefits of doulas include shorter labor, a significant reduction in birth interventions, and happier, well nurtured parents

A doula provides emotional, physical, and informational support to a mother and father throughout the birth process and/or postpartum. “Doula” is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning “woman who serves”. Doulas are educated and experienced in helping the birth process go more smoothly.

One of the biggest benefits of hiring a doula is that they reduce medical interventions in the birth process.

Research shows that hiring a doula improves birth outcomes dramatically. One randomized study at Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston, Texas assigned over four hundred mothers to two groups. One group gave birth with an active doula talking and soothing them through contractions. The other group gave birth with a doula in the room silently observing.

They found that just the silent presence of a doula reduced epidurals, pitocin, cesareans, and the length of labor. Doulas who were allowed to speak and touch the mother helped significantly more. [1]

Outcome No Doula Observing Doula Active Doula
Hours in Labor 9.4 8.4 7.4
Epidural 55% 23% 8%
Pitocin 43% 32% 17%
Cesarean 18% 13% 8%
Forceps 26% 21% 8%

Birth was not designed to be a solitary process. Just the supportive presence of another, experienced woman helps birth go well. Women have been wise to surround and support each other for thousands of years. Now science supports that wisdom with research.

A doula is there to support the mother so that she can focus on her body and her baby. Doulas can help with everything from pain management techniques, to communicating with family and medical staff, to keeping track of belongings and making the birth environment calm and nurturing. Although doulas are not medical professionals, they advocate for parents, enabling them to make informed choices.

Even the presence of a doula helps parents. Her experience and calm understanding of how birth and babies work from beginning to end acts as an anchor in a storm of change and new experiences.

What does a doula do?

A Doula:

1)      Helps parents plan birth and comfort techniques.

2)      Gives an overview of how births work.

3)      Informs and educates parents about resources and options.

4)      Advocates for the original birth vision.

5)      Communicates with medical staff, family and friends.

6)      Supports parents emotionally and physically throughout the process.

7)      Stays present when medical staff change shifts and birth partners need a break.

8)      Reassures parents that this is normal.

9)      Understands what Mom is going through.

10)   Calms parents.

11)   Sooths the birth energy.

12)   Suggests positions and techniques to ease labor.

13)   Steadies parents with her presence and experience.

14)   Advises as new situations arise while supporting the decision parents make.

15)   Facilitates early bonding strategies with baby.

16)   Teaches methods of breastfeeding and caring for baby.

17)   Discusses how birth went to help Mom be satisfied with her experience.

 

References:

1. Kennell, John, et al. (1991). Continuous emotional support during labor in a US hospital: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. May 1, 265(17): 2197-2201.

 

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