“If a doula were a drug, it would be malpractice not to use it.” So says Dr. John Kennell, a renowned pediatrician whose eye-opening research with his colleague, Dr. Marshall Klaus, helped change the way many hospitals conducted maternal and newborn care. Dr. Kennell made a pretty bold statement! But there are good reasons for it.
How can a doula have such a significant impact? The answer to that question is both simple and complex. Birth is a normal physiological event, but it is a very dynamic event. For many women, it is the most impactful experience they will ever have.
(Please click on Doula Services to read more about the changes in childbirth support through the years and how doulas have helped bring about a positive change.)
A doula gives non-stop support and attention to the birthing woman in labor and, as Paulina Perez states, “to the childbearing family.” I love that term, because often, the birthing woman will have a husband or partner, a mother or mother-in-law and others who may be present during the labor and birth. Doulas can provide information and support to all who attend the birth.
Doulas are (or should be) highly trained and educated in the normal birth process and in methods and techniques (such as relaxation, massage and acupressure points) that can help reduce labor pain “naturally” or without medication. Professional doulas are trained in maternal positions and movements that can help reposition a baby during the labor process, which can help the labor progress more steadily.
Doulas are not just helpful in unmedicated births, however. Women receiving epidurals or other birth meds have also reported more positive experiences when a doula was present, and the incidence of interventions remains lower when a doula is attending the birth. With a medicated birth, doulas provide explanations and answers to questions about the medical tests and processes involved in medicated births, and they continue to provide emotional and physical comfort to the mom in labor. Also, if the medication doesn’t work as desired or expected, a doula can be very helpful to provide comfort to the laboring mom while she is confined to the bed and equipment.
Dr. Kennell states that the relaxation,comfort and reassurance a doula’s emotional support has on a birthing woman “has a similar effect as an epidural.” (Interview with Emily Ray in New Life Journal, 2004) That’s a pretty good vote of support of the impact a kind, nurturing and understanding individual can have on a birthing woman.
Doulas provide support for all stages of labor, birth and postpartum. Most doulas remain with the mother for a few hours following birth to help facilitate breastfeeding, answer questions about newborn behavior and give postpartum reassurance. They will usually be on call 24/7 from a couple of weeks prior to the due date until a couple of weeks past the 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 converse with you by email or phone.