Doula support? YES
More and more individuals and families are choosing to use the support of a Doula during their childbearing year, and specifically during the birthing process. I am a certified professional midwife, certified doula, and mother who used both midwives and a doula during my birth experience. As a care provider and recipient of care, doulas fill a critical void within the birth support team of primary providers, family, and friends.
I thought my homebirth team of two midwives, a student midwife, my husband, stepdaughter, and photographer/close friend would offer plenty of support. However, towards the end of my pregnancy, I decided to ask my mother (who is an RN, birth professional, and IBCLC) to be my doula. Knowing my midwives would not arrive until active labor and my husband’s medical school responsibilities, I thought it wise to find someone to be with me continuously. My doula/mother filled this void from early labor through the birth of my daughter (and far beyond of course!).
I cannot imagine my birth without her.
According to DONA International, a doula is a professional who is trained in childbirth and provides continuous support to a mother before, during, and just after birth.
What is the role of a Labor Doula?
- Provides continuous emotional, physical, and informational support FREE FROM PERSONAL JUDGEMENT OR BIAS.
- Helps mother utilize comfort measures: breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning, etc
- Facilitates informed decision making
- Advocates for the mother and helps facilitate communication between the mother and care provider
- Supports your primary birth team (partners, family, and friends). Meaning, a doula will never over take the role of your primary supports.
- Supports your professional birth team (Midwife, Nurses, Doctors, etc)
Labor Doulas are NOT medical professionals and they DO NOT perform any clinical tasks or exams. This is a very important distinction from a Nurse, Midwife, Doctor, etc.
Why choose to include a doula if I already have one or multiple primary supports?
Remember, a labor doula provides CONTINUOUS support to you and your primary support team (familial and/or friend). The only obligation a doula has IS TO BE WITH YOU. Your medical providers at your birth have other responsibilities, and their support ends when their shift ends. Your primary support team may need to take care of themselves at times during labor (use the bathroom, eat, sleep, take a breather, etc). Additionally, your primary support team may have limited knowledge about birth, medical procedures, and/or medical protocols. Doulas and partners can work together to make an optimal labor support team. Here is one partner’s perspective on hiring a doula, read this article from Bloom in Spokane, Washington.
(My Midwives and Student Midwife!!)
I plan to use an epidural or other pharmaceutical forms of pain relief, so why should I use a Doula?
Doulas, in and of themselves, provide a form of pain relief through their continuous support that is superior to any other form of pain relief. An epidural cannot provide emotional support to you and your primary support team, facilitates self-advocacy, help process decisions, or facilitate informed decision-making.
What is the evidence for Doula support?
According to Evidence Based Birth, “in 2012, Hodnett et al. published an updated Cochrane review on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth. They pooled the results of 22 trials that included more than 15,000 women. These women were randomized to either receive continuous, one-on-one support during labor or “usual care.” The quality of the studies was validated.
Overall, women who received continuous support were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and C-sections. In addition, their labors were shorter by about 40 minutes and their babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth.”
What does this mean? BETTER OUTCOMES FOR MOTHER AND BABY
So please, look into doula support! There are many wonderful doulas across the state of Vermont. You can find a doula-in-training offering voluntary support, you can apply for a doula scholarship through the amazing non-profit Handle With Love, or you can hire a doula. The Vermont Birth Network offers a relatively up-to-date list of doulas in Vermont. You can also get in touch with the Vermont Midwives Association for referrals for doulas-/midwives-in-training offering voluntary services.