Getting support from a doula
The number of women using doula support is growing as they discover the benefits of working with a doula. Using a doula decreases first-time labor by an average of two hours, according to the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, which has launched an initiative called Mothering the Mother to encourage the use of doulas. Other benefits include decreased need for pain medication or medication to induce labor, a lower risk of postpartum depression, increased success in breastfeeding and reduced hospitalization time for infants. This evidence comes from data compiled from 14 randomized clinical trials involving more than 5,000 women. The data also highlights another important trend: studies show that the help of a doula can reduce the chance of a Cesarean section by as much as 50 percent.
Part of the Team
Having a doula is appropriate for every type of birth situation, suggests Debra Pascali-Bonaro, a certified doula and president of MotherLove Inc. “Birth, no matter how it unfolds, is emotional, physical and spiritual,” she says.
The number of women using doula support is growing.
Pascali-Bonaro is the mother of five children and a founding member of Doulas of North America, which started with 30 members in 1992 and now has more than 5,000 members. Eighty hospitals across the nation have doula programs and many are grant funded or volunteer based. Pascali-Bonaro also sees an increase in the use of doulas internationally, including in the European Union and Brazil. Doulas are increasingly becoming an accepted and requested part of the birth team.
“Birth has always been more of a social event than a medical event,” says Pascali-Bonaro. “We now have the advantage of integrating the social and the medical.”
As active labor begins to set in, Katie’s contractions are becoming longer, stronger and more frequent. Her husband is holding her hand. They are not sure what to do next. The baby is being monitored for at least the next 20 minutes and Katie is having back pain. “The doula will be here soon,” he says and they both feel relieved at the thought.
Throughout history, laboring mothers have received assistance from women who are experienced in birth. In the past, these women were relatives, friends or neighbors. In Greece, a servant helped the lady of the house with childbearing. This woman was called “doula.” As the tradition of labor support continues today, women who assist mothers during childbirth are becoming widely known as doulas. A doula works with pregnant, birthing and postpartum women, providing personalized care and added comfort during the transition to motherhood.
Women who assist mothers during childbirth are becoming widely known as doulas.
Why a Doula?
Many mothers hire a doula so that they will receive continuous support during labor and birth. The assistance of a doula offers mothers and babies a variety of benefits. Doula-supported mothers enjoy shorter labors, are “26 percent less likely to give birth by Cesarean, 41 percent less likely to give birth with a vacuum extractor or forceps and 28 percent less likely to use analgesia or anesthesia,” according to DONA International. Other advantages include greater success with breastfeeding and fewer babies transferred to intensive care. Mothers report greater satisfaction with their birth experience as compared to mothers who did not have a doula.
In addition, fathers and birth partners appreciate the presence of a doula. Doulas honor the partner’s special role and offer guidance to the couple. While having professional labor support, partners are relieved from the pressure of trying to remember everything they learned in childbirth class. They can focus on being present for the mother. When other family members are attending a birth, they benefit from doula support as well. One new mother wrote to her doula, “My mom still remembers the wonderful way that you comforted her during what could have been a very difficult time for her.” Although grandmothers have given birth, they will often comment on how dramatically things have changed since “their time.”