As soon as that second line appears on the pregnancy test, the questions start whirling in every woman's head. Where will I have my baby? Do I even like my care provider? Do I want to have a natural birth? Should I plan an induction? Then the family questions, friends' opinions, and birthplace policies start to appear in conversations slowly. The amount of information and choices mothers face can be overwhelming, even for the most prepared mothers. This is where a doula can help!
What Is A Doula?
Often, in popular types of media, doulas are portrayed as the hippie with a burning incense stick in hand, telling a laboring mother to “heee-heee – whooo-whooo” the labor pains away. While this makes for funny TV, a doula is a trained non-medical professional who provides continuous support in many forms to a mother before, during, and after childbirth, often using the most up-to-date research available. Doulas have been around for as long as women have been giving birth.
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Historically across many cultures, women often gave birth with the support of the women in their family and community. They were led by a woman who was considered the midwife (either through training or experience) with other women to support the mother and remind her that she was not alone. Modernly, though, women often find themselves without this kind of support and often end up feeling very alone. They rely totally on their care provider and media to tell them what to expect during their upcoming birth. Women are often not informed of many of the choices available to them concerning their care and their rights during pregnancy and labor. Doulas are now filling that gap in maternity care, providing women with this traditional support and nurturing care during their childbearing year.
Anyone Giving Birth Can Use A Doula
It is often assumed that doulas are only for those who want a natural birth or home birth. This is not true; while doulas are often hired to support a woman desiring a natural birth, doulas can help mothers and families plan all kinds of birth—even cesarean birth! Evidence suggests that doulas benefit mothers choosing any method of delivery and reduce unnecessary intervention and birth trauma. Evidence-Based Birth in reporting on a Cochrane Review on doula support found that there was:
- A 39% decrease in cesareans with the use of a doula
- A 15% increase in spontaneous vaginal birth
- A 31% decrease in the risk of the mother being dissatisfied with her birth experience
- Better APGAR scores for baby
- Decreased use of medical pain relief
This is not an exhaustive list, and more information can be found here, as there is so much more to the birth and postpartum experience!
Doulas Provide Essential Support & Advocacy
The support a doula can provide for a mother can take many different forms: physical, emotional, and informational. Physical support involves the hands-on care a doula provides, while emotional support requires active listening and a non-judgmental ear. Mothers often face many worries and unknowns during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and a doula can be there to listen.
Sometimes these worries need some problem solving, and this is where the informational support comes in. The informational support a doula provides is evidence-based and allows the mother to decide what is best for her, her baby, and her family. Doulas empower mothers by providing them with the knowledge that they need to make informed choices using these three forms of support. This starts in pregnancy, with the doula helping the mother research topics she may want to know more about preparing for labor, such as being upright and active in labor or the pros and cons of common interventions in labor. Sometimes a doula can help her find a provider who will better support her in her plans for the birth of her baby.
During labor, a doula can help the mother remember her plans, find comfortable positions to help her move through delivery, and help her advocate for herself and her baby, and help encourage her along (and even encourage the partner too). All of this helps the mother feel supported and nurtured by bringing her baby into the world. A doula can help the mother rest, heal, and build confidence in her mothering skills during postpartum time. They can provide the new mother with education about baby sleep, development, and behavior and support breastfeeding if the mother chooses to breastfeed.
Doulas walk with women through one of the most transformative times of their lives, a time of significant vulnerability and great power. A doula helps the woman acknowledge and harness the power of her trusting her instinct, thus empowering her along her journey of motherhood so that she can face the many questions, challenges, and even moments of great joy with confidence and peace. Ultimately, a doula’s support reminds a mother that she is not alone, and our goal is to put the power of birth and motherhood back where it belongs, in the hands of mothers.
Much like the support of a Doula, the purpose of the professional counseling staff at Birthright of St. Charles is to empower women in making decisions confidentiality, knowing they are backed by the support of so many willing and ready to invest in their future. We are here to empower and support maternal mental health. If you or someone you know needs this type of support, please text us today.
Thank you to our Guest Author – Britni!
Britni is a Birth and Postpartum Doula at Star of The Sea Doula Services and lives in the Greater St. Louis area. After the birth of her first child, she discovered her calling to help inform and support mothers throughout their journey to and through motherhood. When she is not supporting a family at birth or during their postpartum time, she can be found hiking, gardening, or lost in a book. To learn more about her or her business, you can find her at staroftheseadoula.com.