This is a post I started a while ago and left it unfinished. When I found out about the Support Doulas Giveaway at Birth a Miracle Services, I decided to take the opportunity to finish it so I could enter. Today is the last day to enter the giveaway, so check it out if you are interested in winning some homemade natural hand cream!
What are the benefits of having a doula?
I am becoming a doula because I want more women to have all the benefits of doula support. Scientific studies have found clear benefits to having a professionally trained doula with you during childbirth. These include:
* 26% reduction in cesarean sections,
* 41% reduction in use of vacuum extraction or forceps,
* 28% reduction in need for pain medications, and
* 33% reduction in dissatisfaction with the birth experience
(Hodnett and colleagues 2004).
What benefits does having a doula offer over just having my husband as my birth support person?
It is wonderful that the "father pacing in the waiting room" has become a thing of the past, and fathers are now able to participate in the births of their children, to whatever degree they are willing and comfortable. The support that a loving, in-tune partner can provide a woman is of great value. However, it's important to recognize that the birth of your child is a highly significant experience in the life of your partner as well. Expecting the father, for whom the experience is extremely emotional, to meet all the emotional and physical needs of the laboring woman is a lot to ask. He may be worried about you and the baby and may find it difficult to watch you struggling with the obstacle of labor. He may not know or remember what he needs to do to help you. Doulas can be great for reminding or teaching the partner ways to better support the birthing mother. Having a doula also may allow the partner to take breaks if labor is long, without you having to be left without emotional and physical support.
How is a having doula different from having a female friend or family member at my birth?
Having an extra support person can be beneficial, and I recommend this if having a doula is not an option for you. A professional doula does offer unique benefits. She has more knowledge about the birth process, the medical procedures that may be offered, and pain reduction or coping techniques. She may be better equipped to support your plans than a friend or family member may not understand the choices you make. A friend or family member may also find it scary to watch you go through labor, while a doula is more objective and more familiar with labor and what is normal and not normal for women.
What is the benefit of having a doula in addition to the medical staff who will be there?
Most doctors are only able to be with their patients at the very end of labor to catch the baby. A midwife will typically spend more time with you, though in some situations, she will have to care for more than one laboring woman at once. In a hospital, you will have never met the nurses and they may also not be able to stay with you continuously. Some nurses are much better than others at support techniques, and you may not know in advance how good yours will be, though sometimes your choice of hospital plays a role. A doula is a person you choose, who you can get to know in advance, and who will be with you constantly during your labor and birth. Also, the primary responsibility of your medical care providers is to be concerned with the safety of you and your baby. A doula is primarily responsible for your emotional and comfort needs. The medical staff also has to worry about regulation by the hospital and their malpractice insurers. A doula works for you, not your doctor or hospital, and can often offer a more balanced perspective on your options.
Doulas sound great for women who are planning unmedicated birth, but I'm planning on having pain medication. Do I still need a doula?
Many women do choose to hire a doula to support them in their choice for an unmedicated birth, as such support can be difficult to find. However, having a doula can benefit all women, regardless of what kind of births they have. Most women will have to cope with some labor before they receive pain medication, and a doula's support can be beneficial to help the woman get through while she waits for it to be administered. Also, pain medication does not take away a woman's needs for emotional support and unbiased information. Even if a woman needs to have a cesarean, a doula can help keep her calm before and during the procedure and stay with her while the partner stays with the baby. A good doula will support the woman completely in whatever she chooses.
A woman's birth experience matters!
Research conducted by doula, childbirth educator, and author Penny Simkin indicates that women remember accurate details about their births 20 years later. Simkin's research also found that the most significant factor in the satisfaction rating a woman gave for her birth experience 15-20 years down the road was not the length of labor, whether there were complications, or whether or not she had pain medication, but how she was treated by those who cared for her. All women deserve the loving, continuous emotional and physical support of a knowledgeable professional while giving birth. (from Simkin, The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions, Third Edition, pg xi-xii)