Updated: Jun 1
Evidence shows that when women receive continuous emotional support and physical comfort throughout childbirth, their obstetric outcomes may improve.
What is a Doula?
A birth doula is a companion who supports a laboring person during the labor and delivery process, according to Dr. Christine Morton, author of the book Birth Ambassadors. Birth doulas are prepared to offer ongoing, one-on-one care, knowledge, physical support, and emotional support during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum.
A doula is a non-medically trained professional who provides physical, emotional, and informational support throughout the pregnancy and birthing process. Hire them early in your pregnancy for the additional benefit of prenatal support. They can help answer questions, offer evidence-based educational information, and discuss what to expect about upcoming prenatal appointments and the labor & birth process. Many doulas also provide support beyond the immediate postpartum period.
With their knowledge of midwifery care, doulas can provide valuable information about your options for birthing at home or a birth center. In addition, they provide continuous labor support and can help with decision-making during the labor and delivery process. Whether giving birth at the hospital or in an out-of-hospital setting, hiring a doula can be a great way to ensure you receive personalized and individualized care.
Doulas can also support other reproductive experiences, such as miscarriages, stillbirths, or abortions.
The Difference Between Doulas and Midwives
While both midwives and doulas assist in the birthing process, there is one big difference between them:
Midwives are trained to provide medical care during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.
Doulas provide non-medical comfort and support for mothers and families during that same timeframe.
Because their skills complement each other, midwives and doulas work well together in both hospital and out-of-hospital settings, and it is common for clients to use the services of both professions.
How a Doula Can Help
Using a doula has numerous advantages, but one of the biggest is having a trusted person looking out for your welfare throughout an emotionally and physically intense experience. Here are some other ways a doula can help:
Before the baby is born — Pregnancy brings many questions, especially when it’s your first baby. You might call your doula for advice and to answer questions during your pregnancy. Your doula can tell you what issues are typical and counsel you on when to contact your midwife or doctor.
During labor — Your doula can help suggest positions to help move your labor along or make you more comfortable. In addition, she can give your partner a break if labor is long and can be a welcome and constant source of guidance and support that is there for you.
After birth — The postpartum period is a time of many adjustments for you, your family, and your new baby. The doula can help you with the following:
· Feeding support
· Meal prep
· Household tasks
· Newborn care
· Sleep and self-care
Benefits of Doulas for Pregnancy and Childbirth
Research has found that doulas positively affect the birth experience over and above, just making it more comfortable for the birthing person.
Studies have shown that mothers who use birth doulas:
· Have fewer medical interventions
· Have a lower incidence of C-sections and forceps deliveries
· Require less pain medication
· Request fewer epidurals
· Try breastfeeding more readily
· Feel a higher degree of satisfaction with their birth experience
Mothers who used postpartum doulas were more likely to:
· Attend their well-baby appointments
· Have longer breastfeeding durations
· Bond better with their babies
· Have lower rates of postpartum depression
Expectant parents and their support circle can all benefit greatly from having a doula assist them throughout the pregnancy journey. Doulas provide individualized care, support you in making informed decisions regarding your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and offer continuity of care as you adjust to the changes of parenthood.