The Role of a Doula

Doula is a Greek word for “servant,” and has come to mean a woman experienced in childbirth that serves another woman before, during and after birth. Throughout history women have served other women during this time; a doula is a modern day link to that ancient tradition. The birth doula “mothers the mother” and helps the birth partner to better support mom in labor. She also provides a safe space for the couple and the unique bond that they have as parents, with each other, and with their new baby.

 A doula is able to provide the continuous and nurturing emotional, physical and informative support that our modern communities and hospitals are rarely able to give but which makes such a positive difference to all laboring women. Often couples giving birth at the hospital will be attended by numerous nurses and normally will not see the nurse midwife or doctor until shortly before the baby is born, due to their many patients and responsibilities. If procedures are recommended that differ from the couple's birth preferences, the doula is able to help the couple weigh the pros and cons, and provided unbiased information and support for their decision. She works for the couple and is not influenced or bound by protocol, routine, or hospital policies.

Proven Benefits of a Doula

 Decreased medical intervention in labor

  • Reduces need for cesarean by 26%
  • Reduces the need for forceps or vacuum extractor by 41%
  • Reduces use of pain medication by 28%
  • Reduces dissatisfaction with birth by 33%
  • Reduces length of labor

 6 weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were:

  • Less anxious and depressed
  • Had more confidence with baby
  • More satisfied w/partner
  • More likely to be breastfeeding

Findings of Hodnett’s et al meta-analysis of 15 trials from N. America, Europe, and Africa. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003.

 

And from Childbirth Connection's  Listening to Mothers II- Report of the Second National U.S. Survey of Women's Childbearing Experiences:

While 37% of women whose maternity caregiver was an obstetrician felt that they had received supportive care in labor from a physician,...  Fully 100% of women who had had access to doula care felt that the doula provided such support...

Although doulas provided supportive care to the smallest proportions of women, they were by far the most likely to be given an "excellent" rating (88%).