What Doulas Do and Don't Do

Benefits a Doula Can Offer

While you may envision your pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experiences as running smoothly without many obstacles, the reality is that there may come a time when you feel that you don't have quite the support and encouragement you need. Because you are the one carrying the baby, it can be difficult for your partner to completely understand many of the emotions and physical challenges that come up during and after pregnancy.
 
A doula is trained in how to help give your confidence that little extra pat on the back and help boost your emotional strength when you need it most. They can also help bridge that gap between you and your partner. Doulas understand the dynamics of the pregnancy and birth process, and can help guide your partner to better understand your concerns and show your partner how to give support in the way that you need it.
 
Doulas help provide consistent and continuous comfort, reassurance, and encouragement based on the mother's individual circumstances. They can also provide physical care (nonmedical) to help get you through the tiring times of pregnancy, labor, and postpartum challenges.
 

Has Research Been Done on the Benefits of Doulas?

Many studies have been done on the effects of having a doula present at birth. Some of the findings from this research have included:
 
  • Labors seem to be shorter and with fewer complications
  • There are fewer feelings of negativity about one's childbirth experience
  • A reduction in the need for Pitocin® (a drug used to induce or augment labor)
  • Less need for vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • Fewer requests for medicine and/or epidurals.
 
Clinical studies have also looked at the parents' response to having a doula during their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey. These studies have shown that the parents:
 
  • Feel secure and cared for
  • Have more success with breastfeeding
  • Have less postpartum depression
  • Have more self-confidence
  • Have a lower incidence of abuse.
 
So what does this all mean? It basically comes down to this -- if you have continuous support during labor, you and your baby are statistically more likely to have a better outcome. The keyword here is "continuous." The research that has been done indicates that the best results occurred when the women had continuous labor support, particularly from a doula rather than a member of the hospital or a birth partner. So why might a doula be more effective than a spouse or partner?
 
There are a number of theories as to why this is the case. One theory is called the "harsh environment" theory. Although giving birth in a hospital setting has many benefits, it can be considered a harsh environment from the point of view of a mother who is going through labor. This is a time where women are incredibly vulnerable and exposed. Having people who are basically strangers come in and out, using bright lights and needles, can be tough for many women during this time, and can even slow down the labor process.
 
It is believed that mothers who experience this "harsh environment" feeling may find that doulas act as a buffer, as they can provide that continuous support and consistently boost the mother's self-esteem and confidence.
 
Another theory includes the belief that doulas almost act as a sort of pain relief for the mothers. Having that continuous support and encouragement tends to make women less likely to request pain medications and epidurals.
 
Pregnancy and Pain

Pregnancy Info

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