Personally, giving birth without a doula present is not something that I would consider lightly. The word doula comes from Greek meaning “a woman who serves” or “female servant”. During both of my pregnancies, I planned to have experienced women to attend to my needs along with my husband for my births. When I say experienced, I mean women who have given birth before through the means that I also planned to birth, and those who were accustomed to being in the labor room. I chose my sister to be my doula for Deladis’s birth. She had had no formal training, but had given birth naturally twice before, and attended two series of childbirth education classes in preparation. For Ivy’s birth I chose a trained birth doula, Susan Linville, CD (DONA), who was providing these services professionally. She had also experienced cesarean and VBAC personally, so I was very confident in her ability to help me through my experiences.
Now, most commonly when the word “doula” is used it means -
a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. – DONA International
Historically, it has been a rare occassion that women have either birthed alone or only with their significant others or doctors and nurses present. Birth has been part of the “womanly” experience, and while having the father (or life partner) present is of great benefit in birth if that is a loving relationship, it has been the common practice that births were attended also by a midwife or “granny woman” and other women of the local community who were experienced in birth. These women provided the birthing woman with continuous physical, emotional, and informational support.
Asking yourself whether or not you need a doula for your birth is a very important question. I was so impressed with the impact that Susan had on my birth experience, that I was inspired to become a doula myself. There are so many positive aspects to having a doula present that have been proven through scientifc research.
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
Research shows parents who receive support can:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse
A new report published in The Cochrane Library states that women who receive continuous support in labor are less likely to experience a series of risky procedures during their birth, adverse outcomes, or dissatisfaction with their birth experience.
In choosing a doula, the most important thing to consider is your comfort and whether or not your personality meshes with the doula’s. There are many different types of doulas from experienced - to trained - to certified. You do not have to be certified to practice as a doula, and there are many excellent doulas who are not certified by any organization. It is a good idea to interview several doulas before making your final choice. Some things to ask during those interviews are:
- What is your birth philosophy?
- Why do you consider yourself qualified to attend births as a doula?
- How do you help women achieve the births they plan for?
- Where do you obtain the information you share with your clients?
- What if I require intervention to birth safely? How can you help me then?
- Do you have any clients who can talk with me about their experience with you as their doula?
Having a doula present is not only for those of us who have extra monies. Doulas are not only a luxury expense. If you know you would like a doula, it is a good idea to begin saving money here and there while trying to conceive or during early pregnancy for hiring a doula. Check into your health insurance and flex spending accounts. Some will reimburse you for the cost of having a doula. Also, research your options. Depending on experience level and training, doulas will sometimes vary in price. Some doulas even work on a barter system and some will work in groups to provide volunteer services if the situation calls for it.
Having a doula present at your birth is a decision you should make along with any other people you plan to attend your labor and birth. Make sure that everyone you choose understands their role, and know that you can assign tasks to your doula as well. There may be things you would rather your spouse, friend, or relative attend to, and things that you would rather the doula take care of. One of my favorite activities aside from working directly with the mother as a birth doula has been taking photos of the birth. Read more about Creating Your Support Team.
Doulas can be helpful in all kinds of births from the uncomplicated to the complicated. The support they offer is unmatched in the field of maternity care. While they do not take the place of medical personnel, they are an integral part of the birthing mother’s experience and her comfort throughout the process. I love this video, photo montage of doulas in action to illustrate just what a doula can do for you.
Attending to the needs of birthing women has been one of the highlights of my life. Nothing beats the ordinary miracle of birth. Each birth is so special. Find out more about my doula services at Birth True Childbirth Education.
Many happy days to you and yours,