What is a Doula?
A birth Doula provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the birthing family before, during and just after childbirth. Doulas nurture and support the birthing person throughout labor and birth. Their role is to support, no matter what decisions the birthing person makes or how they give birth. A Doula supports them in their right to make decisions about their own body and baby.
What is the evidence on Doulas?
According to a 2012 Cochrane Review women who received continuous labour support (and particularly support from a doula*) were:
- More likely to give birth spontaneously*
- Less likely to give birth via caesarean* (39%) or with vacuum or forceps
- Less likely to use pain medication
- More likely to be satisfied about their birth experience
- More likely to have shorter labours
- Risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience was reduced with continuous support provided by a doula or someone in their social network (family or friend), but not hospital staff
My Partner is unsure if they want a doula there.
Doulas offer practical and emotional support for partners as well. Whether it’s reminding them to eat or sleep, keeping birthing pool water warm, preparing cold compresses or helping them find the right massage techniques, doulas increase partner confidence at the birth and allow them to participate at their own comfort level. This support not only helps new parents bond better with each other during labour and birth but also sets the stage for a strong and confident partnership through the beginning of their parenting journey. I wrote an article on this subject here.
If I have a Doula do I need a midwife or Doctor?:
Yes, a doula does not replace the role of your care provider. A doula does not:
- Perform clinical tasks, such as blood pressure, fetal pulse checks, cervical exams. A doula does not prescribe or administer medications.
- Make decisions for you. A Doula helps you get the information necessary to make an informed decision yourself.
- Speak to medical staff on our behalf. A Doula can discuss any concerns with you and suggest options, however you or your partner will speak to the clinical staff.
- Information from a Doula does not, in any way, replace the care and advice of a registered Midwife or Medical doctor.
Do you only attend home births?
I attend hospital births and homebirths. I attend births with midwives or obstetricians. The only births I do not attend are unassisted births with no care provider.
To Sum it up:
Of all the ways birth outcomes could be improved, continuous labor support seems like one of the most important and basic needs for birthing people. Providing labor support to birthing people is both risk-free and highly effective. Although continuous support can also be offered by birth partners, midwives, nurses, or even some physicians, research has shown that with some outcomes, doulas have a stronger effect than other types of support persons. As such, doulas should be viewed by both parents and providers as a valuable, evidence-based member of the birth care team.