The Value of a Doula
Why Have a Doula?
Many people wonder why a Doula is such a crucial part of the modern birthing experience. If one has a birth companion or feels completely confident in their birth, is it really necessary? Actually, it harkens back to an ancient model of birth wherein the birthing mother is supported by a knowledgeable support person, typically a female elder. Doulas provide continuous, educated support to the birthing mother that encourages deeper relaxation, increased comfort, and a more empowering birthing experience. In addition, the Doula can aid the birth companion with ways to meaningfully support the mother, as well as be a backup when they may need rest. In my practice, my goal is to fully support the birthing mother in whatever way she needs. Whether that is by guiding the birth companion in the best assistance methods or acting as her main support person, I aim to improve the birth experience while inspiring the birthing mother to feel fully in charge and empowered.
Not only do Doulas increase relaxation and comfort, they can actually reduce interventions! In 2017, Bohren et al. published an updated Cochrane review on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth. They combined the results of 26 trials that included more than 15,000 people. The birthing people in these studies were randomized to either receive continuous, one-on-one support during labor or “usual care.” The researchers looked to see if the type of support made a difference. They wanted to know—does it matter who birthing persons choose for continuous support? Does it matter if they choose a midwife, Doula, or partner for continuous support? The researchers were able to look at this question for six outcomes: use of any pain medication, use of Pitocin during labor, spontaneous vaginal birth, cesarean, admission to special care nursery after birth, and negative birth experiences.
For these outcomes, the best results occurred when a birthing person had continuous labor support from a Doula– someone who was NOT a staff member at the hospital and who was NOT part of their social network. The researchers found that overall, people who have continuous Doula support during childbirth experience a:
· 39% decrease in the risk of Cesarean
· 15% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
· 20% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
· Shorter labors by 41 minutes on average
· 38% decrease in the baby’s risk of a low five minute Apgar score
· 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience
Here’s a conceptual model of the impact of a certified Doula:
Giving birth is the most powerful, meaningful thing a woman will ever do in her life. In fact, a 1979 study showed that over 6,000 women over the age of 90, each with a degenerative brain disease, all had one memory still entirely intact: their children’s births. Unfortunately, Western medicine can take some of that innate power away from women by ignoring her instincts and overusing interventions and pain medications. Having a Doula gives the birthing mother an advocate, a voice, and a pillar of strength during this vulnerable and sometimes challenging time. A person to remind her of her strength, her abilities, her options. A person to comfort her, pamper her, and assuage her fears. A person to reinforce and strengthen the love and support of the birth companion. For such an important and impactful experience, one should have the best and most effective support team imaginable. A Doula is no longer a supplemental or superfluous member of that team, but an essential one.
Labor and delivery are an important but fractional part of the holistic birth experience. A truly empowering birth is achieved through proper prenatal preparation and strong postnatal support. I draw on my knowledge and experience to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to women and their Birth Companions. I am independent and self-employed. As your Doula, I am working for you, not for your caregiver or the hospital. On average, I spend 80 hours with my Doula clients in the form of prenatal meetings, HypnoBirthing classes, my presence at the birth, and postnatal support. My comprehensive fee is $1,050 and includes a 5 week HypnoBirthing class (typically $350), a HypnoBirthing book, and up to a year of support. If you have any questions about fees and payments or are interested in applying for Limited Income Assistance, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.