One of our recently graduated birth apprentice doulas, Sharaya, wrote a compelling piece on why someone should hire a doula.
The word “doula” originates from Greece and has been translated to mean “woman caregiver of another woman,” “servant to the mother,” or “mothering the mother.” Today, the word “doula” means a professional labor companion who offers informational, physical, and emotional support to the expecting couple or person (Low, Moffat, and Brennan, 2006). Supporting those in labor has been a practice throughout the history of humankind. It is instinctual and even reflected in other mammal species, such as elephants, dolphins, cattle, and bats (Klaus & Kennell, 1997).
The doula’s role is to help fill in the gaps of care that can often occur by alleviating anxiety, teaching coping techniques, building communication between all parties, and providing continuous support (Papagni and Buckner, 2006).
For many expecting couples or persons having their first or even second baby, the information surrounding pregnancy, labor, and birth can be overwhelming. Information from doctor appointments, childbirth classes, books, late-night Google obsessions, and even family and friends can leave a person swimming in more questions than answers. While a doula does not provide medical advice or personal opinions, their knowledge is valuable.
Due to their experience, a doula can help reassure and normalize the process of labor and birth by helping the couple or person make sense of all the information they’ve received and made the best decisions that fit their needs (Simkin, 2008).A study that looked at a doula’s impact on labor and birth found that while the participants received the same resources and childbirth classes, those that chose to receive additional support from a doula had significantly better birth outcomes.
Participants supported by doulas were four times less likely to have a baby born with low birth weight (LBW), less than 5.5 lbs. Complications such as low oxygen levels, difficulty with staying warm, gaining weight, and feeding can occur with LBW. Participants supported by doulas were also two times less likely to have a complication during birth that involved either themselves or their baby and significantly more likely to breastfeed. While this study looks at participants who chose doula support for themselves, the results are still significant. They indicate that the impact of a doula can assist in empowering pregnant people to manage labor, become more involved with their health care, and engage in healthy prenatal activities (Gruber, Cupito, & Dobson 2013 54-55).Having a doula attend your or your partner’s upcoming labor and birth is a great benefit for the entire family unit as continuous support has been shown in many studies to have a positive impact on birth experiences. As a doula, I believe that every birth is important. Every pregnant person has a right to have a voice in their pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum care and to make judgment-free decisions that are best for them. They have a right to feel safe, informed and supported. As a doula, I believe it is my role to offer informational, physical and emotional support and to build bridges of communication between the pregnant person, their partner and medical staff.
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