A doula’s role is to provide physical, emotional, and informational support during birth to help the mother "achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible". Because of their continuous support before, during, and after labor, hiring a birth doula is worth the investment – whether this is your first or tenth pregnancy!
There are multiple types of doulas including birth, postpartum, and fertility doulas. A birth doula has the most traditional role and emphasizes the importance of women supporting other women during childbirth. While doulas present a financial investment for a couple preparing to have a child, research shows proven benefits of having labor support from a doula including decreased medical intervention, reduced cesarean rates, shorter lengths of labor, and higher satisfaction with the birth experience. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends doulas attend all births globally to address maternal and infant mortality issues.
Beyond these benefits, here are 10 more reasons you should hire a birth doula:
1. Doulas Can Help You Write Your Birth Plan
“Birth plans” are becoming increasingly popular as a tool for women and families to note their preferences for labor and delivery. While your birth plan is not set in stone due to the changing nature of birth, these plans are helpful to communicate your desires to your health provider. A doula can guide the process of what the birth plan should cover, what questions to ask, and what to expect.
2. Doulas Are a Source of Continuous Support
Nurses, midwives, and doctors may only need to check in a few times an hour or once an hour as labor is progressing, but the doula is there supporting you continuously. While the doula does deserve breaks to eat and recharge at appropriate times, they are committing to support the laboring woman through her whole experience. The continuous nature of their support sets doulas apart from other providers.
3. Doulas Can Help Facilitate Decision-Making
Doula training does not include any medical or clinical skills, however, they can assist the laboring woman, partner, and family to navigate the various options and choices that present themselves during labor. Doulas can help inform the family on the risks, benefits, and alternatives presented by the care provider, while remaining objective and supportive of the family’s decisions. Ultimately, a doula’s presence as an unbiased party empowers the laboring woman to make the best decision for her birth.
A doula’s presence as an unbiased party empowers the laboring woman to make the best decision for her birth.
4. Doulas Offer Physical, Emotional, and Informational Support
Doulas are known for offering the “Big 3” of labor support: physical, emotional, and informational. Doulas provide physical support in whatever ways you need, whether that’s holding your hand during a vaginal exam or contraction, helping you in/out of the tub, or applying pressure to your shoulders or back for relaxation. Their emotional support strategies range from praise, reassurance, encouragement, or just a genuine and supportive smile. Through the unique resources and training doulas receive, they can offer the most recent evidence-based informational support to guide you through labor.
5. Doulas Are Knowledgeable about Natural Pain Management
Just by creating a calm and encouraging environment, a doula can reduce pain by mitigating a mother’s fears. More practically, doulas know some of the best tools to offer natural pain relief. These include (but are not limited to) massage, counter-pressure, hip squeezes, heating pads, water (shower or tub), movement, and more.
6. Doulas Can Support Whatever Type of Birth You Want
A common misconception is that doulas are only for people who want un-medicated and “natural” births. This could not be further from the truth! Whether you’re planning to get an epidural, have a planned cesarean, or birth in a hospital – doulas provide evidence-based information and supportive care for all types of birth.
7. Doulas Can Support You and Your Partner
While doulas are primarily tasked with supporting the laboring woman, doulas can help the partner know what’s going on, learn ways to support the laboring woman, and encourage them to relax when things may feel chaotic and stressful. Doulas do not take the place of the partner, but collaborate with them to create the most positive birth environment.
Doulas can teach your partner how to support you in labor.
8. Doulas Can Suggest Position Changes and Tools To Help Labor Progress
As part of their continuous support, a doula will notice how long you stay in a certain position while laboring. Doulas often carry position charts to suggest to women different and frequently changing positions that may provide more comfort and help labor progress faster.
9. Doulas Advocate Your Preferences Immediately Postpartum
As soon as a baby is born, family members and friends get notified of his or her arrival and may want to come to the delivery/postpartum room. The doula can discuss with the parents prior to birth who specifically they do and don’t want in the room. This way, the doula can help protect the family’s privacy and wishes, encourage bonding, and minimize their stress levels.
10. Doulas Help You Remember Your Birth Story
For many women, birth can be an intense whirlwind of an experience. The term “labor land” is often used to describe the trance-like state many women experience as they inwardly focus on the work their body is doing. This state, combined with moms reporting poor memory and forgetfulness in the postpartum period, means it’s often hard for women to remember the events and timeline of their birth. Doulas can support the family during this time by narrating the details and story of the labor and birth, helping them carry on the story for years to come.
Overall, birth doulas can bring a sense of calm and confidence to mothers and families throughout the birth experience. Multiple research studies have been performed internationally to show that the presence of doulas only show meaningful benefits for women. Doulas and their invaluable support, encouragement, and training can help cultivate the most positive and satisfactory birth experience for you and your family.
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