Why should I hire a doula?
Birth today is very different than birth was 100 years ago. Back then, in addition to their care providers, women were supported by their mothers, sisters, aunts, or neighbors—any woman who had some knowledge of childbirth and cared enough for the laboring woman to help her pass through the challenging experience of childbirth. Today, while women often have very loving partners with them, their partners do not have the knowledge of childbirth that women’s birth companions of 100 years ago did, knowledge that enabled them to help women in many different ways, through many different kinds of births. In addition, while today, a woman labors with the help of nurses, doctors, or midwives, those care providers have many other concerns in addition to this one patient and simply cannot devote all their care and attention to her.
With knowledge in the physiology of birth and professionally trained in the best non-medical pain-relief methods, a doula may be the only person at your labor who is concerned with you only and can meet all of your needs: physical, when you say, “This hurts,” emotional, when you say, “I’m scared,” and informational, when you ask, “What is going on? Is this normal?”
In addition to helping women feel more secure, doulas also help women have safer, less complicated births. From repeated medical studies, doulas have been shown to actually improve obstetric outcomes. According to these studies, women who labored with the help of a doula were:
- 26% less likely to give birth by cesarean section
- 41% less likely to give birth with vacuum extraction or forceps
- 28% less likely to use epidurals or other analgesia
- 33% less likely to be dissatisfied with or negatively rate their birth experience
(Source: Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, “Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth”, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 3, 2003.)
Isn’t my husband enough? Won’t the doula get in the way of this intimate experience?
Rather than shutting out or replacing the partner, the doula ideally enhances the support role of the partner. She helps guide both individuals through the experience. The doula can help the partner take a more active role when they might not know what to do. The doula can help calm a concerned partner when they see their loved one in pain or when an emergent medical decision must be made. Finally, the doula can better enable the partner to be the primary support by taking care of the more mundane tasks of labor: getting ice chips, moving suitcases, or calling nurses. Just as laboring women have needs that only their doula can meet, they also have needs that only their partner can meet, because as renowned doula Penny Simkin says, “while the doula probably knows more than the partner about birth, hospitals, and maternity care, the partner knows more about the woman's personality, likes and dislikes, and needs.”* Together, the doula and the partner work to achieve the best possible birthing experience for the mother.
*Penny Simkin, The Doula and the Partner: How They Work Together to Help the Birthing Woman
Does hiring a doula mean I can only have a natural labor?
Absolutely not. Doulas help women have positive birthing experiences, however the woman may define it. Doulas never impose their own beliefs about birth onto their clients. In fact, one could say that doulas’ only belief about birth is that the individual woman’s perspective is the most important one.