A doula is someone who supports a woman during labor. Doulas can assist with massage, holding your hands, cheerleading (loud or quiet, or not at all), or taking a picture if you need. Basically a doula is there for you, to help you feel more comfortable, confident, and more informed. A doula is for any mama.
- SHORTER LABOR
In two Guatemalan studies, women who had a doula with them had a significantly shorter labor. The first study included 40 women and those with a doula labored around 9 hours whereas those without a doula labored around 19 hours. In the second Guatemalan study, there were 225 participants and those without a doula labored about 15.5 hours but those with a doula labored 7.7 hours. (Klaus, Kennell, Klaus p 35). Having a doula there for you can shorten your labor. This is not a guarantee, but it’s worth trying right?
- SHE WON’T LEAVE YOU
Hospitals are busy places. If you are there long enough you may see a few different nurses. If you have a doula she will stay by your side. A doula does not replace a spouse or mother, she’s just there for you. Not every husband can be there, and sometimes there isn’t a significant other, whatever your circumstances, it’s good to have a doula.
- EXTRA HANDS
It’s nice to have a doula there to rub your back if you’re having back labor or give you a foot rub just because you are in labor. A doula is there to hold your hands if needed, or get you a snack if you need one. Of course your husband can do all of those things as well, but sometimes extra hands can be very helpful. Perhaps you are a single mom, or your husband/partner can’t make it, or maybe you just want to hold some hands while you have your back rubbed through a contraction.
- LESS LIKELY TO GET AN EPIDURAL
In a Houston study of 416 women, the ladies without a doula 55% received an epidural and those with a doula only 8% received an epidural. (Klaus, Kennell, Klaus p 38). In my opinion, labor is something for mamas and babies to experience together. An epidural doesn’t mean you won’t experience labor, but it does mean you will experience it differently than nature intended. Sometimes an epidural can slow down labor, and once you get one you are stuck in one position.
- CAESAREAN CHANCES REDUCED
Hiring a doula does not mean you won’t experience a c-section but you have a greater chance of not having one. Education during pregnancy (your doula can help with this) can help reduce or in some cases prevent the use of emergency C-sections. Even if an emergency does come up and a C-section is necessary, your doula will still be there for you.
- HOME VISITS
Depending on the doula you hire, you can expect a few home visits. Some doulas will visit you a couple of times before your baby is born, and some will visit you postpartum as well. Home visits can help you and your doula get to know each other better, give you a chance to write a birth plan, and learn about what to expect once labor begins.
- INFORMATIONAL SUPPORT
Doulas know about the birth process, and what you will experience physically and emotionally. A doula is there to prepare you (home visits) before labor begins. Knowing what to expect and what you body is doing makes a huge difference! Knowledge will leave little room for fear in the delivery room or wherever you fancy having a baby. Doulas also know about the hospital you may be delivering at and the protocols there. If there is a question about policies in the hospital, your doula will help you find the answer.
- STICK TO YOUR PLAN
A doula can help you write your birth plan and bring up things you may not of thought of such as steering clear of episiotomies if possible, and holding your baby right after he or she is born. Although birth can go many ways and we can’t plan everything, it’s nice to be in control of the little things such as lighting, music, and who’s there. It’s also nice to have your plans/hopes on paper in case you’re tied up with a contraction and can’t really talk about what you want.
A doula knows what you’re going through. In the moment labor seems extremely challenging sometimes it seems like it will never end. A doula will give you encouragement, whether it’s words, a small touch, or by just being there. She understands that this is really hard work and she can remind you that each contraction is only a minute or two. She can remind you that you are strong and that you’re doing great.
- MORE CONFIDENCE
Having a baby is so rewarding and it’s nice to have someone there with you to reassure you that have done well. At times labor seems endless, especially during transition when you may feel like you’re in the twilight zone (don’t quite know how else to describe it). With a doula by your side, you’ll feel confident that you can work through anything, and once baby is born hopefully you’ll feel empowered and like a queen (that’s how I felt).
*Statistics from Mothering the Mother by Marshall H. Klaus, John H. Kennell and Phyllis H. Klaus. This a great read for mothers who are pregnant, aspiring doulas, and any birth partner.