One of the first things women start to think about when they see the plus sign of their pregnancy test is, “How am I going to give birth?” It can be a source of worry and stress when you want to feel joyful and happy. Having a birth doula is the perfect way to take away the stress associated with labor and delivery. You’ll have someone with you who is there to give you one-on-one care and support to put you at ease. We’re talking you through the role of a birth doula and why you should consider hiring one to support you through your labor.
What is a Doula? The primary interest of the doula is towards the woman giving birth by providing them with support to create a positive birthing experience. Their relationship is to the individual giving birth and not an institution, such as the hospital. Doulas are becoming increasingly popular in the US, with the number of women using doulas as a birth support doubling between 2006 and 2012 to 6% and 27% of those who did not have a doula said they would’ve liked to have one.
What Does a Doula Do?
A doula supports a birthing person throughout their labor and delivery, whatever way she chooses to give birth. Your doula offers labor support, focusing on the human interaction and caring behavior that provides supports throughout your labor. Their purpose is to be there for you and your partner throughout the birthing process. They are not a medical professional and do not carry out tasks like clinical examinations.
A doula gives support through four pillars, as outlined in the following.
Advocacy The pillar of advocacy is what makes a doula different from other caring professionals. Your doula will support your choices and right to be in control of your birthing experience by encouraging you to ask questions and speak about your preferences and will provide you with educational support. A doula will support your decisions and amplify your voice if you are being ignored or dismissed by others. They’ll facilitate a communication channel between you and the other medical professional to create a positive space where you can ask questions and make decisions without feeling pressured into them by doctors or midwives.
Physical Support A doula also provides physical support to a birthing person. They work by providing support through physical touch, like a massage, or by creating a calming atmosphere by dimming lights and rearranging the birthing room. A doula will assist with water therapy and apply either warm or cold compresses when required. They’ll also provide you with drinks, foods, and ice chips to help keep you comfortable.
Emotional Support Your doula helps you maintain a sense of empowerment throughout the birthing process. One of the primary purposes of a doula is to look after the mother’s emotional health and wellbeing by helping her create a positive birthing experience. A doula acts as a continuous presence to offer encouragement, praise, and reassurance throughout the birthing process. They’ll help you keep a positive mindset by helping you work through your fears and self-doubt by mirroring your feelings and listening with empathy.
Informational Support Throughout the birthing process, a doula will keep you informed about what is happening and provide you with evidence-based information about your birthing options. Your doula will guide you and your partner through the birthing process and suggest techniques that they think will work for you, such as positioning options and breathing techniques. They’ll explain any medical procedures you may need before or as they are happening. A doula is also there to keep your partner informed and to explain what’s happening.
What Can a Doula Do for Me? One of the main evidence-based arguments for doulas is that continuous support has been shown to lead to higher cases of vaginal births without pain medication, forceps-assisted deliveries, or negative feelings towards the birthing experience. The labors of women who have a doula to assist them are shorter than non-supported births by around 40 minutes. Statistically, both mother and baby are likely to have a better experience and outcome during an assisted birth. Having a doula present has been shown to decrease the risk of caesarean by 39%, with a 15% increase in spontaneous vaginal births and a 10% decrease in the use of pain relief medication. There is a 38% decrease in the risk of a low five-minute Apgar score for the baby.
Why is a Doula Important?
Your doula creates a positive birthing experience that differs from the harsh environment often found in modern hospitals. If you’re giving birth in a hospital, you’ll usually have a lack of privacy and be dealing with staff members who are strangers and frequently change throughout your labor and delivery. During your labor, you’re in a vulnerable condition, and harsh environments can slow down your labor and create a negative experience.
A doula acts as a buffer between you and this environment by acting as your support system. Their support has been shown to act as a natural form of pain relief, reducing the need for an epidural or other medical intervention. Research has shown that the support of a doula can increase oxytocin production, a hormone that promotes labor contractions. It also increases beta-endorphins in the mother that make the birthing experience less painful.
If you’re giving birth in a hospital, nurses spend an average of 31% of the labor time in the room with you. Most of this is spent during clinical care, such as medication administration. Your doula is there for you, with their only responsibility being to the person giving birth and not to the hospital.
Hiring a birth doula will allow you to create a positive birthing experience that benefits both you and the baby by giving you a sense of control with someone in the room who is there to answer your questions and help you through the delivery process. Choosing a doula puts you in the best position for a labor and delivery that reflects what you want and positively impacts the birthing experience for you and your baby.
Written By: Keshia Lockett