How Can a Doula Help You Through Pregnancy and Birth?
byKathryn WalshJun 01, 2014
Photograph by Getty Images
It takes a village not only to raise a child but to give birth to one, too. If you hire a doula, she won't replace any of the people who are typically on a woman's birth team. She won't offer medical care or deliver the baby herself, but she will offer emotional and physical support that's tailored to your needs.
When pain and discomfort are part of your daily life, it's easy to forget that pregnancy and labor are miraculous experiences. If you hire a doula several months before your due date, she can help you enjoy this process, acting as part cheerleader and part therapist. During labor, she may help you relax and feel excited about what's happening while medical staff are focused elsewhere. "The goal of the nurse is to ensure the safe outcome of childbirth," write Lois Eve Ballen and Ann J. Fulcher in the March/April 2006 issue of the "Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing." "The goal of the doula is to ensure that the woman feels safe and confident."
If you've found the right obstetrician/gynecologist, he should be available to answer any medical questions you have about your pregnancy. But a doula can offer more personalized, in-depth help regarding what to expect during pregnancy and labor. Though doulas can't give medical advice or care, they usually have extensive experience with labor and delivery, says the American Pregnancy Association (APA), and are knowledgeable about pregnancy complications and labor procedures. Your doula can also help you pinpoint your ideal labor scenario and help you create a birth plan.
Advocating for You
With a flurry of medical staff and family coming in and out, the delivery room can feel chaotic. During labor, a doula can act as your advocate in every way. She should stay with you constantly so you're never alone. A doula can also act as a communication facilitator, says the doula certification group DONA International. She can relay your needs to the medical staff if you're in too much pain to do so yourself and help you and your partner get answers and information about your progress. Your doula can also offer calming massage and help you maneuver into different laboring positions.
No definitive proof exists, but according to Dr. Roger W. Harms of the Mayo Clinic, working with a doula may lower your risk of experiencing pregnancy complications. Some studies have found links between doula assistance and a decreased need for pain medication, as well as a decreased need for cesarean sections and the use of forceps to aid delivery. Studies have also shown that using a doula may reduce the length of labor and reduce your need to jump start labor with oxytocin, says the APA.