Friday, July 8, 2011

Doulas - Should We Hire One?

The short answer to this question is: Yes!

But why? Well, doulas are there to support you and your partner through labor and delivery; in addition, they give you support throughout your pregnancy, help with education, can help formulate birth plans, can help initiate breastfeeding, and many can even help with any questions you may have after you give birth. Doulas specialize in non-medical pain relief and relaxation throughout your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. They are not there to tell you how you need to do things…they are there to help you get the information you need to make an informed decision regarding your care. Whether you plan to have a completely natural birth, you plan to have an epidural or other medical pain relief, or you deliver via surgical birth, a doula can be the “calming force” in your labor and delivery.

I have often heard the question “so what will my husband do if I have a doula?” or from the husband "I'm there to help my wife, so why would we need a doula?". Well, your husband or birth partner will also be supported by the doula. A doula will be able to relieve your husband if it is a long labor and he needs a break to get something to eat, catch a brief nap, or just needs to use the restroom. Though he will remain an integral part of your birth team, the pressure will be relieved and the doula will help him help you throughout your labor and delivery.

"Doulas provide support by enhancing the degree of peace and security and improving communication with the women in childbirth. Doulas also provide increased opportunities for transcultural care. They may increase childbearing women's confidence and satisfaction, help meet the diverse needs of childbearing women and improve care quality."
(Midwifery Jan 12, 2011)

So, what are some of the benefits of having a doula at your labor? Well, according to Klaus and Kennell’s Mothering the Mother, research confirms that having a doula present at birth may:

~ Decrease cesareans by 50%
~ Decrease length of labor by 25%
~ Decrease oxytocin (Pitocin) use by 40%
~ Decrease request for pain meds by 30%
~ Decrease forceps deliveries by 40%
~ Decrease epidural requests by 60%
~ Increase overall birthing satisfaction
~ Promote longer breastfeeding
~ Encourage parent/baby bonding
~ Help partners participate with confidence

In addition to the measurable benefits of having a doula, there are many non-measurable benefits as well.* These benefits include (but are not limited to):

  • Someone who really knows birth and remembers what is taught in childbirth education classes – this can relieve a lot of stress for mom and dad

  • Can help if you are or your partner is scared

  • Can help you let your body guide you through the childbirth

  • Can be the only person who can keep everyone’s nerves calm and cool during childbirth

  • Can help facilitate communication between you, your support team, and providers

  • Can provide massage, teach relaxation techniques, ideas for different labor positions, breathing help, etc prior to and during labor and delivery, and can also teach massage and helping techniques to your partner prior to and during labor

  • Can help provide any emotional or physical support you need if you’re dealing with a difficult pregnancy or situation

  • She may attend your home labor (though in South Dakota it is not legal for doulas to attend your home birth, unless a Certified Nurse Midwife with the appropriate waiver is attending the actual birth**)

  • If you are at home, a doula can get in contact with the hospital if needed, and can also drive you there

  • Can answer your questions about newborn baby care

  • Can answer your questions about your post-pregnancy body and emotions

  • Can answer questions about breastfeeding and latching on

  • Can also give support when it comes to rest, exercise, and post-partum life

  • “If doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” ~Dr John Kennell

    So, the answer is yes, hire a doula today!!

    * Though I’ve modified this list, I unfortunately don’t have the citation of where I got it originally. Even so, I feel it is too good not to share!

    **Originally I said it is illegal for doulas to attend home births, which is not entirely true. It is illegal for anyone other than a family member to be at a home birth if a Certified Nurse Midwife with the approriate waiver isn't attending the actual birth, and in fact, they can be prosecuted for practicing as a CNM without a license if they were there. However, if a CNM who has the appropriate permissions to attend home births in South Dakota is attending the birth, it is extremely unlikely that a doula or any other support person would be prosecuted for practicing as a CNM without a license.

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