A Doula refers to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth. Studies have shown that when Doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier, and they breastfeed more easily.
The Greek word Doula means “woman caregiver.”
Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
Stays with the woman throughout the labor
Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level
Have you heard “the stats” about Doulas? These numbers show the powerful effect from having a Doula present at your birth.
- 50% reduction in cesarean rate
- 25% shorter labor
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 30% reduction in pain medication use
- 40% reduction in forceps delivery
- 40% reduction in pitocin use
This data is from a book published in 1993. There is not a lot of newer data. If you or your spouse needs to be convinced, please ask any person or couple who has had a Doula. Here are some newer stats.
- The results for three different outcomes (analgesia/anesthesia, spontaneous vaginal birth, and instrumental vaginal birth) are significantly stronger when the support person is not a member of the hospital staff. The Cochrane reviewers speculate that “divided loyalties, additional duties beyond labour support, self-selection, and the constraints of institutional policies and routine practices may have all played a role.” (Hodnett, Gates, Hofmeyr & Sakala, 2008 p. 10)
- Women who receive doula care are 27% less likely to be dissatisfied with their births as compared to women who did not use a doula. (based on the reports of 6 studies totaling 9824 women. RR=.73; 95% CI .65-.83)
- Women in the doula care group were significantly more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth (based on the reports of 15 studies totaling 13,357 women. RR=1.07; 95% CI 1.04-1.12).
- Mothers receiving doula care are significantly less likely to feel a loss of control in labor. (based on the reports of 2 studies totaling 7369 women. RR=.79 95% CI .67-.94)
- The results for three outcomes (analgesia/anesthesia, spontaneous vaginal delivery, cesarean rate) were significantly stronger when labor support began before active labor
(adapted from http://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/)