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Why do I need a Doula?

Why do I need a Doula? My husband will be my Doula? My mom will be with me through labor so she will be my Doula. This and many more things we hear from new or seasoned parents who may not really understand the value in having a Doula. What is a Doula? A Doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to parents before, during and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.

Physical support is important because it helps the birthing person maintain a sense of control, comfort, and confidence. Aspects of physical support provided by a doula may include:

  • Soothing with touch through the use of massage, counter pressure, or a rebozo

  • Helping to create a calm environment, like dimming lights and arranging curtains

  • Assisting with water therapy (shower, tub)

  • Applying warmth or cold

  • Assisting the birthing person in walking to and from the bathroom

  • Giving ice chips, food, and drinks

Emotional support helps the birthing person feel cared for and feel a sense of pride and empowerment after birth. One of the doula’s primary goals is to care for the mother’s emotional health and enhance her ability to have positive birth memories (Gilland, 2010b). Doulas may provide the following types of emotional support to the birthing person and their partner:

  • Continuous presence

  • Reassurance

  • Encouragement

  • Praise

  • Helping the birthing person see themselves or their situation more positively

  • Keeping company

  • Showing a caring attitude

  • Mirroring—calmly describing what the birthing person is experiencing and echoing back the same feelings and intensity

  • Accepting what the birthing person wants

  • Helping the birthing person and partner work through fears and self-doubt

  • Debriefing after the birth—listening to the mother with empathy

The Doula helps keep the birthing person and their partner informed about what’s going on with the course of labor, as well as provides them with access to evidence-based information about birth options. They can help them create a birth plan, provide resources to many other helpful providers and help explain medical procedures before or as they occur. They are not meant to take the place of the partner, in fact they are there to help he partner understand what’s going on with their loved one’s labor (for example, interpreting the different sounds the birthing person makes) and giving them tips on how they can best support them. There are so many benefits to having a Doula in your birth team.

Here are a few:

  • 25% decrease in the risk of Cesarean; the largest effect was seen with a doula (39% decrease)*

  • 8% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth; the largest effect was seen with a doula (15% increase)*

  • 10% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief; the type of person providing continuous support did not make a difference

  • Shorter labors by 41 minutes on average; there is no data on if the type of person providing continuous support makes a difference

Having a Doula that has been trained and experienced in all types of births is extremely different then having a friend that has had a child or a family member who you are close to. Family and friends mean well and want to support and comfort you in any way they can but if things change, labor is long and it doesn't go as planned, they may not always be the best option. We have seen many times mothers supporting their daughters and when labor gets intense they right away feel like something is wrong or mom should give in to pain meds. We one time had a Grandmother say, "she should just get the epidural & stop suffering already". You are not suffering in labor, you are working with your body and bringing your baby to this earth. If your plan & wish is to birth naturally then being encouraged and supported even with words will make a difference in the outcome. Labor is tough, gritty, and can be long and intense. Another thing we have seen is a mother in labor slows the progression when they have their mother in the room. Sometimes it's a mental thing and instead of focusing on labor and the transition they become the baby again with the mother babying them. It sounds ridiculous but it can happen. Labor begins in the mind so if your mind is conditioned with positive information, advocacy, support and education on the natural process then this is the perfect combination to have the birth you desire. Establishing a good birth team, planning out what your goals are and working with a Doula to help you facilitate these goals can really help you and your family have the best experience possible.

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