Women share a long history of caring for each other during childbirth. Mothers, sisters, and friends have been at the bedsides of women for centuries during their most challenging moments of giving birth to their babies. A birth doula, by definition, is a labor support professional trained at providing physical and emotional support to pregnant women during labor and delivery. There are many benefits to having a trained support person at your side during the birth process to assist you and your partner in having your childbirth wishes met.
Whether you choose to have a medicated or un-medicated birth, the skilled hands of a birth doula can provide relief during painful contractions. Research has shown that women who have doulas assisting them in labor are less likely to need a Cesarean birth. Doulas are experienced in massage, pressure points, and breathing techniques that can help you relax and feel more comfortable during your labor. A birth doula can also help you move into different positions to assist in guiding the baby through the pelvis and birth canal.
Your doula will meet with you at various times throughout your pregnancy to find out what your birth wishes are. During labor, doulas act as an advocate to make sure these wishes are known and met by the hospital staff so you can focus solely on getting through your labor. While doulas are not medical professionals by training, they are trained to know common labor and delivery terms and procedures making them able to ask appropriate questions when necessary. Your doula will act only on you and your partner’s behalf.
Some women may want their significant other or some other family member to be their main source of labor support but need some guidance in how this person can help them. Doulas are great at coaching partners during the labor process and offering advice on how to provide physical support and also what to say to their partner while she is laboring. A doula can also be a great person to step in when partners need a break or are tending to curious family members.
Many families live far away from each other nowadays and sometimes it may not be possible to have your mother or sister present for your entire labor. Just having another female presence in the room may offer laboring women some ease, which is where doulas can have an impact. Many experienced doulas have helped countless women during childbirth and may know what your needs are even before you do. While no one can replace mom, a nurturing doula can act as your go-to woman for emotional support.
While having a doula may not be right for every woman, it may help some achieve the childbirth experience they hope for or gain a friendly hand in coping with labor. Whether you choose to go forward with hiring someone for your birth or not, a doula is a wealth of knowledge and someone you can trust to give you an idea of what to expect during the labor and birth process. There are no disadvantages to having someone who offers continuous support and advocacy during one of the most precious times of life.
Allison Flynn, RN, BSN, IBCLC, is a nurse in the RWJ Barnabas health care system with experience in postpartum and newborn care, labor and delivery, and school nursing.
This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings Magazine Monmouth Ocean edition. Click here to subscribe, thanks :)