The word “doula” comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth.
A Birth Doula:
- Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
- Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
- Stays with the woman throughout the labor
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions
- Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
- Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience
- Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level
Why should I use a doula?
Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences. And that is precisely what a doula can provide.
Doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and valued.*
Women supported by a doula during labor have been shown to have:
- 50% reduction in Cesarean rate
- 25% shorter labor
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 40% reduction in Pitocin use
- 30% reduction in analgesic use
- 30% reduction in forceps delivery
Six weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas experienced:
- Less anxiety and depression
- More confidence with the baby
- More satisfaction with their partner
Long-term benefits of using a doula:
- Improved breastfeeding
- Increased time spent with baby
- More positive maternal assessments of baby’s personality and health, and maternal competence
- Decreased postpartum depression+
*adapted from http://www.dona.org
+ “Mothering the Mother”, by M.H. Klaus, J.H. Kennell, and P.H. Klaus; Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, New York (1993).