The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves”. It is used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and after the birth. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications. Babies are healthier and they breast feed more easily. Doulas who are present at the birth are known as birth doulas. Doulas who help after the birth are known as postpartum doulas.
A doula advocates for the woman when the woman is unable to advocate for herself and facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her provider. A doula is supportive of the woman’s partner and allows him/ her to participate at his/her comfort level. A doula provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint. She understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of the woman in labor.
A postpartum doula is very important in that she supports a mother in the critical time after birth. She assists with newborn care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light tidying which allows the new mother to rest and spent time bonding with her baby. Because of her experience she is able to offer evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth , infant soothing and skills for new parents. She is able to make appropriate referrals when necessary.Here are some benefits of having a birth doula:
- Women experience shorter labors
- Women are less likely to choose pain medications
- Obstetricians perform less episiotomies
- There is a reduction in the use of artificial Oxytocin
- There is a 50% reduction of Cesarean births
- Obstetricians use forceps 40% less of the time
- Women are 60% less likely to request epidurals
- Women are 30% less likely to receive Pitocin