What is a Birth Doula? A birth doula is a trained labor coach who spends hours with moms-to-be before and after birth. She will spend time getting to know them, support them during pregnancy, help them develop a birth plan, and be by their side throughout labor and after the baby is born. Among other things, a birth doula helps women stay comfortable and calm, get into positions which help move labor along, offer natural means of pain relief, support family members, help make difficult decisions, and provide assistance with breastfeeding. Doula labor coaches may also offer advice on prenatal nutrition and on dealing with lower back pain, insomnia, postpartum depression, and more.
Birth Doula Benefits
According to Jessica English, director of public relations for DONA International and a certified birth doula, research shows that women who use a doula have a 26% reduction in cesarean births, a 28% reduction in the use of pain medication, and fewer forceps deliveries.
Additional benefits of birth doulas include:
- Come to your home
- Provide physical support
- Provide emotional support
- Offer comfort techniques and labor position education
- Offer reassurance and encouragement
- Offer breathing assistance
- Provide hands-on care such as massage, extra pillows, movement assistance, and more
- May offer aromatherapy and guided meditation
- Support dads and family members
- Talk with women about their fears, concerns, worries
- Talk about goals
- Become a trusted friend
- Offer childcare during labor
- Give women confidence that they can have a great birth
Doulas Versus Midwives
Doulas and midwives have much in common as they both assist women before, during, and after birth. However, there are also differences between a doula and a midwife. Doulas do not prescribe medication, provide emergency medical service, or check blood pressure, cervical dilation, or fetal heart rate. Midwives, on the other hand, depending on their certification and licensing credentials, may offer a wide array of healthcare services for women. This includes prenatal care, reproductive and contraceptive education, labor and delivery support, gynecological exams, family planning, infant care and breastfeeding education, and more. Another important distinction between a doula and a midwife is their salary, which is much lower for a doula.
Choosing a Doula
To choose the right doula, be sure to conduct an in-person interview where you can inquire about her certification, the number of births she has attended, why she decided to become a doula, how many home visits (pre- and post-natal) are included in her fee, and any other pertinent questions. Some of the doula certifying organizations are:
- DONA International
- Childbirth International
- BirthArts International
The important thing is to feel comfortable with your doula and confident in her skills.