What is a Doula?
The word “doula” comes from a Greek word meaning “a woman who serves” (DONA International). A doula is a labor coach, someone who is trained in assisting and supporting a woman through the later stage of pregnancy, birth, and immediately after birth. Some doulas also provide postpartum support.
Doulas and midwives believe in a woman’s natural ability to give birth. A midwife is trained to perform medical examinations and actually deliver the baby. A doula focuses on emotional, pain-relieving and stress-reducing aspects of the delivery on mother and father whether during a home or hospital birth. Some midwives are also doulas.
Benefits of Having a Doula
A doula can be an important part of your birthing plan.
The relationship with a doula starts a few months before the expected due date. Soon-to-be moms and dads will have ample opportunity to discuss any fears or concerns relating to the upoming birth.
A doula will coach the mother in breathing and relaxation techniques and labor positions, as well as massage techniques.
Research has shown that a doula:
- Decreases the length of labor
- Reduces the incidence and risk of labor-related complications
- Reduces the risk of having a cesarean section or extraction delivery
- Increases a mother’s ability to cope with pain
- Decreases a mother’s need of pain medication
- Reduces the use of labor-inducing drugs
- Increases the depth of the relationship between mom and dad
- Increases the chances of successful breastfeeding
- Increases a mother’s confidence in her mothering abilities (reducing postpartum depression)
- Increases a mother’s perception of her birthing experience as a positive one
- Decreases stress on dads
- Acts as a communicator between laboring mom and dads and healthcare staff
- Eases the adjustment to caring for a newborn for new moms and dads
Studies have shown that a doula “decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and request for an epidural by 60%.” (American Pregnancy Association)
Doulas and Dads
Some dads are afraid that a doula will interfere with their ability to participate and/or enjoy the birth experience with their wives. The truth is a doula is there to support the dad, too.
- Offers coaching, advice and reminders for dads during labor and delivery
- Provides encouragement
- Provides nourishment for the supporting dad
- Coordinates the needs of the mother with nursing staff so dad can focus on supporting his wife
- Allows dads to take a period of rest as needed during longer labors
- Allows a dad to simply experience the miracle of birth without the stress of providing active support to his wife
“[I]t’s important that the doula, mother, and father all sit together and talk about how they envision the childbirth. It’s also important that the father participate in choosing and hiring the doula, since they should both feel comfortable with whomever they choose to attend this special moment in their lives.” (Doula.com)
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Having a Doula: Is a Doula for Me? American Pregnancy Association. Web. May 2, 2012.
Doulas: Should you hire a labor coach? BabyCenter. Web. May 2, 2012.
What is a doula? DONA International. Web. May 2, 2012.
How a doula can make your birth experience easier, healthier, and more empowering. Doula.com. Web. May 2, 2012.
Becoming a Midwife. Doula.com. Web. May 2, 2012.
Dads and Doulas: Working Together. Doula.com. Web. May 2, 2012.