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I was preparing to give birth to my sixth child at home when I first considered hiring a doula. Giving birth at home was a wonderful experience for my family, but it was also tiresome for us all, my midwife included. After having three lovely home births in four years, I knew I needed to make my birth support team a bit larger.
According to DONA International, the word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" or "handmaiden." A doula is a trained and experienced professional who is there to care for the mother in labor, providing continuous physical and emotional support before, during and just after birth. I wish I had chosen to have a doula for all six of my childbirth experiences.
5 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Doula
1. A doula is a comforter. A doula is there to support the laboring mother in many different ways; pep talks, massages, laboring positions and relaxation techniques, to name a few. She also makes sure the birth environment is what the mother wants (dim lighting, soft music, and so on). She is experienced and can offer reassurance and guidance during what can be a stressful time.
2. Having a doula often means a decreased rate of interventions during labor. Studies show a decrease in the cesarean rate, the use of forceps, vacuum extraction, and episiotomies. A doula can also help a mother have a drug-free birth, if that is what her birth plan asks for. The grounding presence of a doula alone can bring a tremendous amount of relief.
3. A doula can bring peace of mind to dad, too. Doulas allow dads to take a step back to rest and refuel, without any guilt attached. Knowing that their partner is being well-cared for and won't be alone can help the father focus on the momentous occasion of becoming a new parent. Having an extra pair of hands makes a big difference to a mother's comfort and pain levels.
4. Doulas know your birth experience matters. A doula also acts as an advocate, helping the mother follow her birth plan so she can have her desired birth outcome. She works for the mother, not the hospital or the midwife. She will be with you every step of the way because she's taken the time to really get to know you. The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth.
5. A doula can mean a better postpartum experience. New mothers have significantly less anxiety and don't experience the "baby blues" as severely when they have a doula caring for them after the baby is born. They are also more likely to exclusively breastfeed their babies because they have support nearby. Just having someone to talk to and help those first few days after giving birth can help a new mother in so many ways.
The doula who tended to the birth of my last child was a godsend. When my two midwives had conflicting opinions about whether or not my cervix was swollen and they told me to stop pushing, they stepped out of the room to talk. It was at that moment I decided I was going to push my baby out, with or without their help. I was over this painful labor stuff — I just wanted it to be over already. Once my doula, Katie, caught on to me, she was as cool as a cucumber.
"I'm going to push this baby out right now!" I said through clenched teeth.
I remember her quietly slipping on a pair of black gloves, kneeling down toward the birth tub and asking me nonchalantly, "Tell me. Is your body telling you to push or is your brain telling you to push?"
And with several grunts, cries and a few swear words, I pushed my nearly 10-pound baby girl out into the warm, swirling water of the birth tub. My doula was there to scoop up the baby and place her in my arms, all before the midwives even knew what I had just done. Her calm spirit helped me trust my body. I wasn't afraid; I felt invincible at that moment. I'm not sure what the outcome would have been without the presence of my doula and I'm thankful she was there at my birth.