Photograph courtesy of Wesley Kronick
Have you ever heard of someone employing a doula to attend their birth and wondered exactly what a doula is? A doula is a trained labor companion who assists her clients in the physical, emotional, and informational aspects of labor before, during, and after childbirth. Doulas meet with their clients prior to the birth to better understand their needs and to discuss options for the upcoming birth. Doulas provide reassurance and perspective, make suggestions for labor progress, and help with positioning, massage, relaxation and other techniques for comfort during labor. Doulas give advice and resources for after the birth of the baby. Doulas also provide continuous labor support: they don’t leave until after the baby has been born. And, doulas are not just for mothers. Doulas help partners and other family members to understand the labor process and how to best assist in the birth and postpartum period in ways that they feel most comfortable. Doulas are not there to take the place of a father or partner. To the contrary, the experienced doula recognizes when to be of strong presence and support as well as when to stand aside.
Why hire a doula? Studies have shown that having a doula present as a part of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, reduction in epidural requests by 60%, and reduction in synthetic oxytocin use by 40%. Women who used a doula were two times more likely to be breastfeeding at 6 weeks postpartum than women who choose not to. A doula works with their client to create the birth experience that the client most desires. She is aware that no two births are exactly the same and is prepared to handle diverse situations. Assistance from a doula is beneficial in all birth settings whether it is at home, a birth center, or a hospital. She helps with all birth scenarios be it a planned, un-medicated birth, a medicated one, or a cesarean birth.
The motivations to become a doula are diverse: it may be a personal birth experience, a passion regarding birthing rights, a desire to nurture, or simply a love of babies. Doulas are extremely passionate about the work that they do. So much so that many doulas refer to the profession as a calling. Doulas come to this road from many different paths. We have different styles, different backgrounds and different personalities, so there is likely the right doula for every woman who wants one. If you would like to find the doula that is right for you there are many different resources: talk to your midwife, your OB, or your friends; or you can visit Doula Match, DONA International, or PALS Doulas, just to name a few.
My hope is that your birth reflects you and your desires, and that you always feel respected and heard. I wish you all the best in this exciting time in your life.
Lisa Shire, Birth Doula
Lisa is patient of Downtown Seattle Acupuncture and has prepared for the birth of two children using acupuncture. Monica Legatt LAC is honored to have her as a guest contributor to this blog. She may be reaced for additional questions and for doula services at Hand To Lend.
References: Mothering the Mother, How a Doula Can Help You Have A Shorter Easier Healthier Birth by Klaus, Kennell and Klaus (1993) and PubMed.gov