Doula...It's a word that we have started to hear more and more related to having babies. You see advertisements sometimes plastered everywhere, You Deserve a Doula! You might have even heard of someone who had a doula for their birth. So what is a doula? There's alot of article out there about what doulas are and how they affect birth etc etc. So for some of you this might just be a repeat of what you already know.
What is a Doula? A doula is generally a woman (sometimes a man) who assists and supports a woman (as well as her birth partner and family) through labour and birth. Some doulas provide support afterwards as well but we will get to that. The doula does this through non-medical means. She provides emotional and physical support as well as giving the mother and her family information to help them make an informed decision about their birth choices. There are some different types of Doulas. There are labour/birth doulas who support mothers through the birth and post-partum doulas who support the mom and her family afterwards when they come home. There are also ante-natal doulas who offer support mainly to high risk mothers through their pregnancies.
What do Doulas do? Doulas meet their clients, maybe do some pre-natal meetings, discuss birth plans, assist their clients in making informed choices about their birth, provide them with information and access to community resources. They are there for labour and birth offering emotional and physical support. Some doulas also do extra things like helping plan a blessingway (mother blessing), belly casting, henna, massage etc. Doulas also provide access to resources within the community. Post-Partum Doulas also provide support for the mom and family when they come home. They do a range of things from providing breastfeeding support, to cooking, light cleaning, helping with older children etc. Ante-natal doulas provide support and information through pregnancy and typically do a range of things like light housekeeping etc if a mother is put onto bedrest. No matter what type of doula they are the doula provides a level of emotional support to their clients as well as the physical support.
What are the benefits? There are alot of studies on the benefits of doulas. Most of the studies conclude fairly similar results.
Having a doula present:
Reduced the overall cesarean rate by 50%
Reduced the length of labor by 25%
Reduced oxytocin use by 40%
Reduced the use of pain medication by 30%
Reduced forceps deliveries by 40%
Reduced requests for epidural pain medication by 60%
Reduced incidences of maternal fever
Reduced the number of days newborns spent in NICU (neo-natal infant care unit)
Reduced the amount of septic workups performed on newborns
Resulted in higher rates of breastfeeding
Resulted in more positive maternal assessments of maternal confidence
Resulted in more positive maternal assessments of maternal and newborn health
Resulted in decreased rates of postpartum depression
(from Mothering The Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth, Marshall Klaus, John Kennell and Phyllis Klaus)
Doulas are a great asset to your birth team, if you are looking for more information on doulas check out http://www.dona.org/ or contact your local doula association.