The Cochrane Review, Contiuous Support for Women During Childbirth, revealed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. When a doula was present, women were less likely to have pain medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported having a more positive childbirth experience. The review goes so far to say, "We conclude that all women should have continuous support during labour."
"I'm not really sure what a birth doula even does...?"
As a doula I support my clients as they become active participants in their birth experience. During our prenatal meetings, I help them understand what to expect from labor, what their choices are in different scenarios, and how we can work together to achieve a positive birth experience. The doula continues her role after the baby is born to insure the family is getting off on the right foot, and offering support and referrals whenever needed.
"I am planning a homebirth with a midwife, will I need a doula?"
Those giving birth need support no matter their birth location. A birth doula is one option for someone looking for continuous physical and emotional support. Although a homebirth midwife is very hands-on and present, they are also performing clinical tasks that often require their primary focus and attention. Hiring a doula is one way to insure continuous support for those giving birth.
"I just found out I am pregnant, should I be looking for a doula?"
Yes! Hiring a trained and experienced doula early in your pregnancy is a great way to make informed choices about care providers and birth locations. Doulas are in a unique position because we have seen births in many different facilities with different care providers. A doula can listen to what you value most and refer you to providers who are comortable with your birth preferences.
"I really want an unmedicated birth, what can I do to increase my changes of that?"
There are some factors of birth that we can control, but there are many more that we cannot. Before you sign up for childbirth classes, spend hours watching birth videos, and reading mountains of books on the topic, preparing for the "marathon of labor," there is something very important that can have a large impact on your birth outcome. Where and with whom you give birth is something you do get to choose, and also plays a huge role in achieving your birth goals. Having a provider that is truly supportive of unmedicated birth, and respectful of your preferences can be the first big step in the right direction.
"I plan on getting an epidural when I arrive at the hospital, should I still hire a doula?"
Absolutely! There are many reasons why a person planning to give birth using pain medications would benefit from skilled labor support. A doula offers emotional, physical, and informational support, and those needs don't stop once an epidural is in place. In my experience, there are so many ways the birthing person can be cared for even if the pain of labor is not the biggest challenge.
"My partner is concerned that a doula will replace them."
We often focus on the doula's support during labor, but the work begins long before, by helping parents become connected with one another, informed about their birth choices, and preparing for the life transition after the baby arrives. The doula is fulfilling a completely different role than the partner because the partner knows their loved one more intimately than the doula ever could, and the doula has experience with birth. I also feel that I am present as a support person for the partner's experience as well. There are practical and emotional needs that a partner needs to look after in order to be able to be present for the birthing parent. Choosing a doula that everyone feels comfortable with can enhance everyone's experience with the birth.