Doula comes from the Greek word for the most important female worker in an ancient Greek household, the woman who probably helped the lady of the house through her childbearing.  The word now refers to “a woman experienced in childbirth who provided continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after childbirth.”  (Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus, Mothering the Mother)

A Doula

  • recognizes birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all her life
  • understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • assists the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plans for the birth
  • stays by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor
  • provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, and an objective viewpoint and assistance to the woman in getting the information she needs to make good decisions
  • perceives her role as one who nurtures and protects the woman’s memory of her birth experience

If you have any person in your birth room, it should be a doula!  Here are a few facts:

A nurse most likely will not be able to provide you continuous support:

“The organization of care in modern maternity units- including shift changes, diverse staff responsibilities, and staff shortages- appears to limit the effectiveness of labor support provided by members of the hospital staff, ” said Ellen D. Hodnett, RN, PhD, and Professor, Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto.  ”Non-hospital caregivers may be able to give greater attention to the mothers’ needs.”

Women who receive continuous labor support are less likely to experience:

  • epidural or other regional analgesia
  • any analgesia/anesthesia, including epidurals and opioids
  • birth with vacuum extraction or forceps
  • birth by cesarean
  • dissatisfaction or a negative experience

By numbers, compared to women without continuous labor support, those who had continuous labor support from non-hospital caregivers experienced impressive reductions in risk for major abdominal surgery, other interventions, and dissatsifaction.  These women 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 any analgesia or anesthesia
  • 33% less likely to be dissatisfied with or negatively rate their birth experience

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