What the research says:
According to numerous studies, hiring a doula positively affects birth outcomes and the postpartum period. A doula can decrease the length of women’s labors, the use of pitocin, the need for pain medication, the occurrence of Cesarean birth, forceps and vacuum deliveries, postpartum depression, and NICU stays. Doulas can also increase women’s satisfaction with the birth experience, their partner and their baby, as well as increasing their odds of breastfeeding past 6 weeks.
Talking a mom through her contraction
|50% reduction in cesarean rate
25% shorter labor
60% reduction in epidural requests
|40% reduction in oxytocin use
30% reduction in analgesia use
40% reduction in forceps delivery
*statistics from: Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter Easier and Healthier Birth, written by Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus (1993)
What parents may experience:
1) A Doula helps parents approach the medical aspect of birth with an educated advocate on their side. She can answer questions whenever medical ‘crossroads’ arise so they can make informed decisions feeling in control of the situation and always with the original vision for the birth in mind.
2) A doula provides support and encouragement through all of labor (including before going to the hospital or birth center if you choose) and will be with Mom the whole time. In a hospital setting she may be the only person for whom this is true. Knowing you have someone who will be there through the whole experience is reassuring and minimizes disruption to labor that a hospital shift change can bring.
3) A doula is knowledgeable about a full range of labor circumstances, so she knows that the pain and discomfort of labor are normal and healthy. So, she can be a calm, reassuring, and confident presence in the birthing room. Even if she is not actively participating in the ongoing comfort measures, her attitude often boosts parents’ morale and gives the reassurance needed to stick with it.
4) A doula can relieve birth partners if someone needs to take a short break to eat, use the restroom, or just regroup. That time can be taken knowing that Mom will still have a caring support person with her.
5) Even when parents are well prepared for birth, for first-time parents it will still be the first birth Dad has ever seen. Some people say this is analogous to someone taking a 12-hr class on the basics of football and then dropping him into the Super Bowl to coach the game! When Dad is the only support person, it places a huge burden on him, and can add unnecessary anxiety to the birth energy.
6) Many comfort measures are tricky to do without a second set of hands. A doula can assist in position changes or techniques that require two support people (e.g. applying counter-pressure on Mom’s back while she leans on Dad).
7) Sometimes a long labor requires parents to try all kinds of different techniques to get through it. A doula is another sounding board, and if Dad runs out of ideas, she is an endless source of suggestions to try.
8) A doula takes pressure off birth partners to be all things at once. It is her job to remember what parents talked about at prenatals and to make sure their wishes are honored (like aromatherapy or music, for example). A doula can do everything from the basics (taking pictures, getting food & water) to tricky emotional support. Basically, she frees the partner to do what only he/she can: love and support Mom!
9) Doulas follow up after the birth to make sure everything is going smoothly physically, emotionally and logistically (especially with breastfeeding).