Having a baby is big deal. For many women, it’s kind of a scary deal, too. Even if we prepare for birth and feel good about our doctor or midwife, we can still feel nervous when thinking about going through labor or taking care of a baby afterwards. This is where a doula comes in handy!
A doula (doo-la) is a woman who is trained to support another woman during labor, birth and postpartum. Doulas understand the physical and emotional needs of a birthing woman or new mom. She shows up to stay by the side of the woman in labor whenever the birthing mom is ready for support. Doulas provide reassurance and can help relieve discomfort by using time-tested methods such as counterpressure, positioning, massage, warm or cold compresses, hydrotherapy and other techniques. If procedures are recommended, the doula can often provide further explanation of those procedures and in the midst of what can sometimes seem like a lot of activity, the doula remains solely focused on the needs of the woman giving birth.
Dr. John Kennell said, “If a doula were a drug, it would be malpractice not to use it.” This statement was made after he and Dr. Marshall Klaus reported many positive benefits to having a doula. Their studies showed that when a birthing woman had the support of a doula, the labors tended to be shorter, less complicated, with fewer needs for interventions such as Pitocin, forceps and pain medicine. Especially important is that women who had a doula reported feeling more positive about their birth experience, their newborns and even their partners.
How can a doula have such a significant impact? The answer to that question lies in the importance of having an experienced birth companion. Birth is a normal physiological event, but it is a very dynamic event. For many women, it is the most life-changing experience they will ever have.
Over the ages, women have traditionally been supported by other women during childbirth and postpartum. Their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends were often present to provide emotional encouragement and physical support during the birth process. But as families moved apart, many women found themselves virtually alone as they faced the upcoming labor and birth of their baby.
This societal change occurred at the same time as the change from home births to hospital births. The baby’s father and other family members were excluded from the mysterious delivery room and whatever went on in there. Women were often scared and alone, which increased their pain during childbirth. One intervention led to another, and the face of childbirth changed in many modern societies.
Many women decided to reclaim their place–and their peace–in childbirth, both as the birthing woman and as women offering labor support. Although this idea seemed radical to some, it was actually just a resurgence…a renaissance, if you will…of age old birth practices. Having a trained, experienced companion to provide emotional and physical support during the birth process helped the birthing woman feel more at ease, less frightened and more trusting of her body and the natural process of birth.
It is important to know that doulas do not do any kind of medical evaluations. They do not do cervical checks, blood pressure checks or any kind of medical test or evaluation. Midwives, doctors and nurses are the experts in that area. Doulas are the experts in understanding the emotional and physical needs of a woman in labor, birth and postpartum, and how to meet those needs in a non-medical way.
If you would like to contact me about my doula services, please click on Contact Julie and I will be happy to talk to you and answer your questions.