Should You Hire a Labor Doula?
What do the studies show?
When continuous labor support was provided by a doula, women experienced a:
- 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
- 28% decrease in the risk of C-section
- 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
- 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
- 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
- 4% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience
Why does having a doula make such a difference?
Women who feel supported are able to relax during labor. A laboring mom who is less stressed secretes less stress-hormones. The hormone oxytocin is a “calming hormone” and it is also the primary hormone that causes the uterus to contract to the baby and “push” the baby down through the birth canal.
When a mom feels anxious, scared and worried about her birth, that stress can actually slow down labor as those stress-hormones such as progesterone block the flow of oxytocin, slowing down the labor.
A Labor Doula provides on-going emotional and physical support which causes the laboring mother to breath, focus and relax. Studies also show having a Labor Doula can shorten the length of Labor. Even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has called doula support “one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes.”
If I am giving birth in the Hospital with my Partner by my side, and the Nurses available, why do I need a doula?
In a hospital setting, the nurses (as much as they would like to) cannot stay with you during your labor. The nurse is there to monitor your progress and check in from time to time. They do not provide continuous support or encouragement, neither do they give you information on comfort techniques that can lessen anxiety and encourage your labor to continue. Your nurse often has other patients and will be with the doctor to assist during delivery but up until that point you labor most of the time alone with your partner.
Your Partner is not typically trained in the process of labor and the techniques that can help a laboring mom to relax. Your Partner may be overwhelmed himself.Your partner may need to nap or get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee.
Having a doula during the entire labor allows your partner to tend to some of these needs. It also provides him support and direction on ways he can help you. A doula does not take the place of the spouse but helps him to participate at his comfort level.
For a partner who gets overwhelmed in the hospital setting, the doula will just pick up where he leaves off and provide any and all “hands-on” assistance. This would include verbal encouragement, massage, and other suggestions to ease discomfort and relieve the anxiety for both of you.
Will the Labor Doula Push For Me To Have A Non-Medicated Birth?
A Professional Labor Doula should not have her own agenda for your birth. She is there to help you to have the birth that you want. She will help you and your partner to create a birth plan so that everyone, including the hospital staff, know what type of birth you want. If you’re planning a non-medicated birth, she will work to help you to achieve that. If you know you will need and want an epidural or other pain medications, she will support your decision.
She will provide helpful suggestions during your early stages of labor and be with you when you get your epidural or other medications. She is nonjudgmental. She does not interfere with the medical staff but will help explain what the doctor may be offering and help you and your partner understand what options you may have.
Not all births using a labor doula will end in a vaginal delivery. If the baby is in any way distressed or in danger the doctor will let you know what is needed. Everyone supports the need to deliver a healthy baby in whatever way is necessary.
How Can Having a Doula Help Me Successfully Breastfeed My Baby?
Studies show that babies who are allowed to lay on their mothers right after delivery and who “self-attach” have less problems with breastfeeding going forward.
Your doula will be sure to encourage the staff (if needed) to give you time with your baby after delivery – quiet, “get-to-know-my baby” time – with your spouse and newborn. Moms and babies given this time to “hang-out” together before the baby is “whisked away” (for often hours for tests and monitoring) have fewer latching problems.
Your doula will remind you of the need to nurse often in the hospital, to learn what a good latch looks and feels like and to figure this out before your milk comes in.* What your baby gets from you during these first few days is not for hunger, it is for lining your baby’s intestinal tract with healthy bacteria, clean out meconium and many believe set your baby’s gut health up for life.
If you understand how nursing works and what to do while in tHow Can Having a he hospital and during your first weeks home with breastfeeding, it will go a long way to helping you avoid many of the common breastfeeding issues common to new mothers.
How Can I Arrange For A Labor Support Doula?
Studies show that babies who are allowed to lay on their mothers right after delivery and who “self-attach” have less problems with breastfeeding going forward. Your doula will be sure to encourage the staff (if needed) to give you time with your baby after delivery – quiet, “get-to-know-my baby” time – with your spouse and newborn. Moms and babies given this time to “hang-out” together before the baby is “whisked away” (for often hours for tests and monitoring) have fewer latching problems.
You will want to interview a few doulas to be sure you have someone you and your partner feel comfortable with. Your Doula should be Trained or Certified through DONA International or another certifying group (there are several).
She should have a thorough knowledge of the process of labor and comfort techniques to lessen stress and increase the joy in the hospital setting! She should be respectful of the Hospital and Staff and view herself as part of the team whose sole goal is for you to have a healthy and happy delivery.
Call MothersCare Doula Services at 203-375-5719 to meet with one of our Labor Doulas. We will also explain how we set up a doula for you and how it all works before, during and after you go into Labor.
About Susan Shepard Keeney
I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”