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Understanding the Benefits of a Doula: A Guide for Expectant Families

Updated: Jan 10

A Doula is an expert in childbirth, perinatal, and postpartum care, who offers emotional, physical, and educational assistance to a birthing family throughout their pregnancy, during labor, and in the postpartum period.

The benefits of a Doula come from their holistic role of creating a supportive environment that encourages safe, memorable, and empowering birth experiences.

While the term 'Doula' is frequently associated with birth or labor support companions, there are other types, including antepartum, pregnancy termination, pregnancy loss, and postpartum Doulas.

This blog post focuses on the benefits of a labor Doula, who can also be known as a birth companion, labor support professional, birth aide, or labor assistant.

What Role Does a Doula Play?

The journey with a Doula usually starts a few months before the baby's expected arrival. However, it is never too early or late to start forming a relationship with a Doula.

During this time, a trusting relationship is built, allowing the expectant family to freely express their concerns, ask questions, and actively participate in the development of their birth plan.

Doulas can share useful techniques like effective partner communication, comfort measures and stress-reduction methods to ease childbirth. Doulas also discuss what can be expected, and which birth options might be preferable for a family based on their desires, as well as their health, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Doulas are ready to offer advice and answer questions throughout their client’s pregnancy. Although they do not provide medical care, a Doula possesses a wealth of knowledge about the medical aspects of labor and delivery, which can help families better understand late pregnancy procedures, as well as ways to cope through potential complications.

Throughout labor, Doulas provide continuous support to the birthing person and their family. Most Doulas are available by phone until the birthing person decides they need extra support working through their contractions. They can ease discomfort with various pain-management techniques, such as breathing exercises, relaxation strategies, massage, and with movement through different labor positions.

Doulas often provide education around any interventions that are being suggested by the client’s birth team, what are the likely outcomes of these, while reminding the birthing family of their right to decide what is right for them and their birth.

Serving as an advocate, a Doula supports the birthing parent in achieving her desired birth experience. The Doula's ultimate goal is to facilitate a positive and safe birth, whether the baby is born by vaginal birth or through cesarean section. Post-birth, many Doulas assist new families with initiating breastfeeding/chestfeeding, and promoting bonding between the newborn and the family.

The Advantages of Having a Doula:

There are numerous documented benefits of a Doula's presence during labor. A Cochrane Review study titled, "Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth,"reveals significantly positive birth outcomes when a Doula is involved.

Women and birthing people with Doula support are less likely to require pain-relief medications or cesarean sections, and generally report a more positive childbirth experience.

Other research indicates that the presence of a Doula can decrease the overall cesarean rate by 50%, shorten the length of labor by 25%, reduce the use of pitocin by 40%, and lessen requests for an epidural by 60%.

Although it was previously believed that synthetic oxytocin, also called pitocin, couldn't cross the blood-brain barrier to provide the same psychological benefits, recent studies suggest otherwise. Doulas can help mothers experience these natural oxytocin benefits without the need for medication.

According to Drs. Marshal Klaus and John Kennell, massage can stimulate natural oxytocin production, which not only triggers uterine contractions but also enhances feelings of well-being, relaxation, and increases pain tolerance.

The Basics of Hiring a Doula

What about the Partner’s Role When a Doula is Present?

A Doula doesn't replace the role of partners or husbands during labor, but rather enriches the experience. In the modern era, many partners actively participate in the birthing process, but some might prefer to witness the birth without the pressures of being the primary labor coach.

Having a Doula on the birthing team allows partners to support their loved one emotionally during labor and birth, and also to savor the experience without the stress of recalling everything they learned in childbirth class!

Are Doulas Only Beneficial for Unmedicated Births?

Regardless of the type of birth planned, the presence of a Doula can be advantageous. Even when a birthing parent opts for a medicated birth, a Doula can provide emotional, informational, and physical support throughout labor and the administration of medications.

Doulas can help medicated clients manage potential side effects, and other needs that medication might not sufficiently address. They can also explain certain medical procedures to the birthing parent using plain, rather than medical, language.

In the case of a cesarean section, a Doula provides constant support and encouragement, and keeps the birthing parent informed about the procedure's progress, freeing up the partner to be with the newborn if complications do arise.

What about Other Types of Doulas?

Antepartum Doulas offer support to those who are on bedrest or who are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. Their role can be invaluable in situations that are often filled with stress, confusion, and emotional exhaustion.

Postpartum Doulas provide invaluable support in the initial weeks after birth. They offer guidance about baby care, assistance with housekeeping and meals, and emotional support to new birthing families.

Infant loss Doulas can support families navigate the loss of an infant during pregnancy or after birth. Some Doulas are trained in multiple areas and can serve in different capacities.

How to Find a Doula:

When choosing a Doula, it's crucial to find someone with whom you feel comfortable. Most offer a free initial consultation, so take the opportunity to interview as many as needed to find the right fit.

At The Womb Room, all Doulas offer a free initial call or meeting, to determine their availability and if they fit the needs of the expecting family.

Questions to Ask a Doula:

What is your training background?

What services do you offer?

What are your fees?

Are you available around my due date?

Why did you choose to become a Doula?

What are your beliefs about childbirth?

Can we meet before the birth to discuss my birth plan?

What happens if you're unavailable when I go into labor?

What is something you wish new families knew before working with you?

Read more about Questions to ask and Why to Hire a Doula here! Remember, the benefits of a Doula are far-reaching and can greatly enhance your birthing experience.

To learn more about how a Doula can support you during this transformative time, we invite you to start a conversation with our experienced Doulas today.


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