Studies have shown that having a doula as part of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and the request for an epidural by 60%. Mothering the Mother by Marshall H. Klaus
A doula is defined by Doulas of North America (DONA) as a woman who is trained and experienced in childbirth and provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman during labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum period. Women choose to labor and give birth with doula support for a wide range of needs, goals, and concerns about their childbirth experience. Many women want to be encouraged and supported as they give birth without pain medications, while other women desire a liaison between themselves and the medical staff. Some women may have no family to support them through labor, while others simply prefer an experienced female to “take the pressure off” their partner.
The role of a doula is to provide specific labor-support skills, techniques, and strategies, offer guidance and encouragement, build a team relationship with the nursing staff, encourage communication between the patient and medical caregivers, and assist the mother in covering the gaps in her care. According to DONA (n.d.), a doula’s role can be summarized in seven objectives:
- To recognize birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all of her life;
- To understand the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor;
- To assist the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plan for the birth;
- To stay by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor;
- To provide emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint, and assistance to the woman in getting the information she needs to make good decisions;
- To facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and clinical care providers; and
- To perceive the doula’s role as one who nurtures and protects the woman’s memory of her birth experience.
On a personal note, my doula was there just for me. My doula was constantly reminding me how powerful I am, and of the natural process I was living through. We have been giving birth since the beginning of time. Women have been supporting women during birth for just as long. It has only been since the early 1900’s that birth support has been taken out of the birth equation.
Weather you choose to be at home or in the hospital to have your baby, your doula will be there just for you.