To Doula or Not to Doula?

A lot of people think that because they’re planning to have their baby at a birth center, they don’t need to hire a birth doula.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth!

First of all, the job of a doula, who is a non-medical, professionally-trained labor supporter, starts long before labor begins.  Doulas typically meet with a family once or twice during the pregnancy to give pregnant moms and their partners credible, research-based information about their birth options, including birth classes in their area, natural birth preferences, and why interventions like inductions and epidurals are sometimes used in labor.  They also talk to the couple about logistics, fears, concerns, and even referrals to other professionals who work with pregnant women. Doulas will also rehearse a few labor positions and massage techniques with the parents so they’ll have an idea of what to expect in labor and share a few laughs before the very intimate experience of labor begins.

Throughout the pregnancy, moms, dads and doulas regularly stay in touch via emails, texts and phone calls so the doula can continue to offer information and resources if needed.  Once labor starts, the mom and doula keep in touch by phone until the mom decides she really wants the doula’s in-person support at home, the birth center or hospital.  The hands-on comfort that doulas offer includes massaging the hands, feet, lower back, neck and shoulders, as well as using specific acupressure techniques to encourage labor.  Doulas also suggest positions, walk the halls with the mom, and physically support a mom as she gets in and out of the tub or shower. All the while, the doula is working as a team with the dad and/or other labor supporters so they can make the mother as comfortable as possible in labor.

The midwives at Breath of Life love when their clients have a doula on their birth team because having another trained birth professional adds extra emotional and physical support for the client.  It is especially helpful when there’s more than one client in labor and the midwife is dividing her time between them.  In the occasional labor when a client is transferred to the hospital (usually for a non-emergency), a doula will go to the hospital with the mom and her partner, and can help them prepare for what to expect when they get there.  This makes the transfer more comfortable and with less “fear of the unknown.”

Just for the record, a recent Cochrane Review of the Studies found that women who have the continuous support of a birth doula have an increased chance of having a:

  • Spontaneous vaginal birth
  • Labor without medical pain relief
  • Slightly shorter labor

Convinced?  We’ve made it easy for you to find a doula!  You can narrow down the local field of hundreds to just 14 who are Breath of Life Certified Doulas and you can find them all right here.  Each of these doulas completed an on-site training, met our midwives, toured our birth center, and got to go through some mock labor positions with all the tools we have here, including a birth ball and some unique massage tools.

If you need one last reason to consider a doula, let me share that even obstetricians – who generally take a more medical approach to birth – are beginning to see the benefits of doula support and they say so in a recent report about how to reduce the risk of an unplanned cesarean birth.  Here the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that “one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula,” and that since “there are no associated measurable harms, this resource is probably underutilized.”

So while having a doula can’t guarantee a certain outcome – birth is an inherently unpredictable event– it certainly does guarantee that the mom in labor and her partner will have the constant support of a trained, caring person who can help them through any of the twists and turns that pregnancy and labor can bring.