A doula is a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother and her partner before, during and just after childbirth. This includes preparation for birth, helping the laboring woman with encouragement, comfort measures, relaxation techniques, and an objective viewpoint, helping the mother and her partner interact successfully with medical providers, and support after childbirth such as helping to initiate breastfeeding. Doulas believe that pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are normal, natural and healthy processes. Doulas understand the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a laboring woman and her partner. Doulas do not provide medical advice or perform medical procedures of any kind. A doula will not make medical decisions for the mother or partner, but will provide them with the necessary and accurate information to make an informed decision. For answers to some common misconceptions regarding doulas read Doula Myths vs Realities.
Benefits of Having a Doula
- 50% Reduction in Cesarean Rate
- 25% Reduction in length of labor
- 40% Reduction in the need for labor stimulating drugs
- 60% Reduction in request for epidural pain relief
*Klaus, M.; Klaus, P.; Kennell, J. Mothering the Mother 1993
Who Needs a Doula?
Every pregnant woman will benefit from having a doula present during her labor and delivery. A doula "mother's the mother" in a way no other care provider can. The doula enhances the supporting efforts of the mother's partner, which makes the birth experience more meaningful for everyone involved. There are some situations when the presence of a doula becomes even more necessary.
- Couples attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)
- Women classified as high risk
- Couples expecting twins or higher order multiples
- Couples strongly committed to avoiding pain medication or routine interventions
- Couples planning a home birth
- Women laboring without the support of a partner
- Couples who desire midwifery care but are unable to find a midwife
- Couples attempting to overcome a 'bad' birth experience
To learn more about doulas and access other links about pregnancy, birth, nutrition and newborns, visit dona.org