The birth of the birth doula
Birth doulas started to show up during the 1960’s. Prior to that most women that delivered their babies in hospitals had intense interventions and an overwhelming majority were not even awake! (My grandmother had 12 babies between the late 40’s and early 60’s and was only awake for one of the births…) During what became know as the Natural Birth Movement, women started to become educated about the process of childbirth and began desiring unmedicated, low-intervention births. Realizing they needed more support to have the birth they wanted, they would be accompanied and assisted by women close to them like a mother/sister/friend, or by a childbirth educator.
“Doula” is a Greek word that translates “woman’s servant”
A birth doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula's purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience. This is done in many ways and should be tailor made to fit the mother’s specific needs.
A birth doula provides emotional support by:
• The use of physical touch to soothe and calm the mother and help her stay focused
• Talking to the mother and telling her what to expect, how well she is doing, answering her questions
• Creating a calm, comforting atmosphere for labor to take place, especially in the hospital setting
• Supporting the partner and family members of the expectant woman
• Promote bonding after the birth of the baby during the Golden Hour
A birth doula provides physical support by:
• Recommending position changes for Mama to make labor progress or help move a malpositioned baby
• Continuing the use of physical touch and incorporating things like rhythmic breathing, massage and relaxation techniques
• Using unconventional tools like a rebozo, massage items, essential oils and other tools to naturally augment labor and help Mama cope
• Providing help with initial breastfeeding
A birth doula provides educational support by:
• Being available to expectant woman and her family at all times to answer questions or debrief after a visit with the caregiver
• Creating a birth plan (a wish list regarding the management of labor, pain relief options and interventions to be used or avoided)
• Being a translator, especially in labor, so the woman and her family understand the medical team and the terms they are using
A BIRTH DOULA DOES NOT:
• Perform clinical tasks such as vaginal exams, blood pressure monitoring or fetal heart tones. Ever.
• Make decisions for the laboring mother or her family, but provides information and explanations as needed
• Speak on behalf of the laboring mother or her family, instead the doula makes sure the mother and her partner know all their options and helps them find their voice.
The benefits of having a birth doula are clear and indisputable. They include a much lower risk of cesarean birth and a lowered risk for the use of medications and interventions such as forceps or vacuum. There is an increased likelihood of spontaneous vaginal delivery and an increase in the likelihood of satisfaction with the entire birth experience. Having a qualified, trained birth doula will make all the difference the day you deliver your sweet baby.