Doulas For Pregnancy, Labor, Birth, and Postpartum Support
Childbirth Assistants Who Mother The Mother
By: kieransmom on: Sat 09 of Jun, 2007 [01:43 UTC] (2048 reads)
The word "doula" is derived from ancient Greek, meaning "woman caregiver of another woman." Modern doulas are women who are hired by the expectant mother to give prenatal advice and assistance during pregnancy, labor, and birth. The employment of doulas has been shown to increase the safety of childbirth, and increases expectant mothers' knowledge and confidence about their bodies' abilities. Many birth doulas also offer postpartum support, to help a new mother with the challenges of newborn care, breastfeeding, and other challenges.
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The World Health Organization promotes the employment of doulas, in their study Care In Normal Birth: A Practical Guide, stating,
"A doula provides support consisting of praise, reassurance, measures to improve the comfort of the mother, physical contact such as rubbing the mother's back and holding her hands, explanation of what is going on during labour and delivery and a constant friendly presence."
If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, you should consider hiring a doula. Adding a doula to your support team has several advantages.
A doula can:
- Reduce your chance of C-section by 50%
- Reduce your time of labor by 25%
- Reduce the need for medical intervention (pitocin, rupturing membranes, forceps, vacuum extraction) by 40%
- Reduce the chances that you'll ask for demerol or epidural by 60%
- Stay focused on you and your needs during labor and delivery
- Reduce your fears about labor and childbirth
- Increase your self-confidence and trust in your abilities
- Reduce the chances of perineal tearing or surgical episiotomy
- Increase your chances of having a satisfying, joyful, and normal birth experience
- Improve your chances of success in breastfeeding
- Improve your bonding with your newborn
- Decrease your risk of suffering postpartum depression
Doulas are becoming more common in several countries, including the United States. She can assist you whether you choose to have your baby at home, in a birthing center, or in a hospital; she can likely help you to figure out which of these settings would be most appropriate for you. Doulas are knowledgable about pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and breastfeeding, and have attended several births. A doula is not there to displace your husband, but rather to be a knowledgeable reinforcement, a calming support when both you and your baby's father are feeling exhausted.
A doula also serves as an advocate for the mother in hospital births, where a mother may feel overwhelmed and frightened by the medicalization of childbirth, to help the mother have as normal a birth as possible. Nurses may come and go at shift changes, but a doula always stays, is a reliable and constant presence. A doula will be familiar with your birth plan and will help to make sure your wishes are met. She can answer your questions if the physician or nurses are unavailable, and can help you to decide if an intervention is really necessary under the circumstances. She will calmly work with the hospital staff, instead of being defensive and adding to the problem if there is a problem.
From the time that you recognize you are in labor, your doula can come to your home to help you as soon as possible. Many doulas may drive you and your family to the hospital or birthing center. Doulas are usually very familiar with natural pain management techniques, to reduce your need for dangerous narcotics or epidurals which have been shown to be detrimental to the newborn's respiratory functions and ability to breastfeed, and will help you through with acupressure, meditation, water birth, and massage. Your doula will watch your facial expression and body language to recommend if you need to change position, walk around for a while, get into the tub or shower, etc. She will increase the chances that you will relax during labor and have a positive and confident birth experience.
To make sure that the doula that you would like to hire is trained and qualified, you can ask to see her certification papers and references of her past clients. Doulas in the United States are not licensed, but usually are trained through one of a few different organizations that help women become certified doulas. You can contact DONA (Doulas of North America), ALACE (Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators), and Birthworks to find a doula (or to seek training and certification if you are interested in becoming a doula yourself!). Your obstetrician, midwife, birth center, or women's clinic may also know how you can find a doula. La Leche League leaders and members may also be familiar with local doulas. Maybe you even have a friend who has employed a doula.
The rates that doulas charge vary greatly by region, and depending on where you live, will be either surprisingly affordable or extremely costly. You will want to contact your insurance company, because many carriers are beginning to recognize the value of doulas for lowering the costs of childbirth and thus may cover part of or the entire doula fee. However, even if you need to pay for the doula out of your pocket, the benefits to having a doula by your side during labor and delivery are completely worthwhile to the women who employ them.