what is a birth doula?
She was present when we needed her, and became almost invisible at just the right moment to give us space and enjoy the process as a couple. She was the emotional anchor that kept us present in the most transformative day of our lives. We are forever grateful"
The Greek word doula means woman caregiver. We now use this word to describe either a birth doula or a postpartum doula. A postpartum doula provides care to a family with a newborn baby and joins the family after birth. A birth doula is a trained labor companion that provides the birthing person and partner (if applicable) continuous emotional support, physical comfort and help in receiving information and resources during the prenatal period, during the birth and just after childbirth.
A birth doula understands that birth will be one of the most transformative times in your life, a time that will be remembered for the rest of your life and can affect you greatly. A birth doula trusts your instincts to know what is best for you and your very unique and individual pregnancy and childbirth. A birth doula plays a vital role during the prenatal months offering continuous emotional support and any resources you may need to plan for your dream birth. A birth doula understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a person in labor. She will stay by your side throughout the entire labor. She will provide continuous emotional support, physical comfort measures and assistance to you (the birthing person) in getting information needed to make the best decisions for your unique birth. A birth doula can help facilitate communication between the laboring person, partner, and the clinical care providers. A birth doula perceives her role as one who nurtures and protects the memory of one’s birth story.
The best evidence…
The best evidence about the benefits of continuous support during labor from a person that was neither a member of the hospital staff nor someone in the birthing person’s social network and provided one-to-one supportive care (such as a birth doula) resulted in the following:
- 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
- 28% decrease in the risk of C-section
- 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
- 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience
These results are from the most recent and largest systematic review of continuous labor support of over 15,000 birthing persons who participated in 21 randomized controlled trials. (Hodnett and colleagues 2011)