A doula is a paraprofessionals that is trained and experienced in childbirth.
A few month ago, the journal Anthropology and Medicine published a really interesting article that praised the positive outcomes that doulas have on labor outcomes. The article suggested the reasoning for this is “that doulas’ conceptualizations of the space of birth were framed in terms of creating/maintaining intimacy and that doulas and women maintained this intimate space even within the institutionalized medical-clinical birth experience.”
This is good news for women who must deliver their babies in a hospital. Reasons why women may need to deliver in a hospital as opposed to in a midwife operated birthing center or at home assisted by a midwife are valid. Though in low risk and normal pregnancies, the safest births are those that take place outside of the hospital, thankfully, hospitals are available to those women who require that kind of specialized assistance.
In addition to pregnancy complications and risks, women have reported to us that they feel forced to labor in a hospital for insurance purposes. Though a midwife assisted birth is extraordinarily less costly than a hospital birth, the reality is that for some families, those funds are not available and a hospital birth is their only option. Everything Birth encourages women who have low risk and normal pregnancies to at least discuss finances with local midwives because payment plans and discounted rates are often available, but not advertised for women who genuinely want their children’s births to take place outside the hospital.
Once the decision has been made to deliver in a hospital, for whatever reason, the right doula can mean a drastically improved laboring situation with less intervention and more emotional calm.
- A birth doula is not a midwife, she does not deliver the baby. A doula is also not meant to replace the role of the birth partner or father.
- Though fathers or other birth partners are still a part of the birth, a doula can even take the heat off of him and make the experience more pleasant for him too.
A doula compliments the role of the designated birth partner. Doulas provide physical support such as bringing drinks, warming and applying heating pads and providing backrubs. Doulas offer emotional support, reassurance, and experience. Doulas can help facilitate communication with the hospital staff. While deciding on options during a birth, doulas offer an outside, educated perspective that helps the laboring woman make rational decisions that are best for her and her child. Babies born to women with continuous support during labor, such as the support offered by a doula,are less likely to have low APGAR scores. A doula understands the labor and delivery process, the emotions that are involved and even has experience and knowledge about many of the interventions used in a hospital delivery.
To quote Dr. John Kennell, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”