A Doula is an experienced, non-medical assistant who provides physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, labour and postpartum.
A Labour Doula provides continuous care during labour in many settings, from home to hospital to birth centre. Labour Doulas help with creating a birth plan, offer emotional support and advice during pregnancy and labour, and can suggest massage, positioning suggestions and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures during labour. Labour Doulas can also help with preparing for and beginning breastfeeding.
A Postpartum Doula provides care in the home for as long after the birth as the parent(s) see necessary. She may help with newborn care, breastfeeding information and support, household care, sibling care, meal preparation, and running errands.
Studies have found that having a Labour Doula present offers numerous benefits to the mother and baby, including:
· A decrease in the duration of labour by up to 25%
· A reduction in the use of medications by up to 31%
· A 41% lower rate of instrumental deliveries
· A 50% reduction in the use of oxytocin augmentation
· A reduction in cesarean deliveries by 45%
In addition, one study found that 6 weeks after delivery, a greater proportion of Doula-supported women, compared to a control group, were breastfeeding, and these women reported greater self-esteem, less depression, a higher regard for their babies and their ability to care for them, and a greater satisfaction with their partner.
BUT I ALREADY HAVE A SUPPORT PARTNER…
The Doula is an ally and occasional mentor for the father/significant other. Their respective roles are similar, but the differences are crucial. The father or partner typically has little actual experience in dealing with the often-subtle forces of the labour process, and may receive enormous benefit from the birth-familiar presence of a Doula. Even more important, many partners experience the birth as an emotional journey of their own and find it hard to be objective in such a situation, and a Doula facilitates the family process. Studies have shown that partners usually participate more actively during labour with the presence of a Doula than without one. A responsible Doula supports and encourages the partner in their own support style rather than replaces them.