Labor and Birth Support- The Doula
There is significant evidence today that when women have a trained and experienced support person (doula) with them during childbirth, they report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression. This support person provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth. She is often referred to as a doula. Traditionally, a midwife has also provided these services to women birthing at home or in hospital.
With the move from home to hospital in the first half of the 1900s, laboring women experienced, maybe for the first time in history, separation from their families and support people at the time of birth. Modern society has come a long way since then and is gradually bringing back the crucial role of the doula.
Not every woman needs the same kinds of support and comfort measures. What every woman should have is the option to have a kind, experienced, patient, caring, and skilled person by their side during birth. This can be the medical care provider, but due to the system present in today’s maternity wards, the doctors and Nurse Midwives are caring for many women at once, and their ability to remain with the mother throughout the entire process is minimal. A designated support person, on the other hand, can give the woman that undivided attention that is so important.
Its best if the support person has a certain level of training and expertise. This training will give her valuable skills to help and assist the birthing woman. It will also help her understand what her role is, and what it isn’t. She’s not there to provide medical care, but rather moral support, attention, hands-on comfort measures, and non-medical advice. She might use massage, breathing techniques, visualizations, guidance about positions and other activities for a healthy labor. She isn’t there to insure the woman has a natural birth. She is there to support the birthing mother in whatever way she needs support. She’s there to encourage her client (and the client's husband) to make informed decisions. If the mother feels like she was respected during the birth process, got the care she needed, and feels positive about the outcome, the doula has been successful in her mission.