From pregnancy to delivery to breastfeeding, and everything in between, a new mom can use all the support available to her. A doula is a trained professional who is hired to provide women with emotional and physical support during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and a short post-partum period. By providing non-medical emotional and physical support, doula services are considered to be complimentary to the obstetrical care provided by midwives and OBGYNS. Using evidence-based research, a doula educates families about the birthing process in an effort to remove fear and stress.
Further training allows doulas to provide physical and emotional comfort during labor to the new mom and support person. After birth, doulas can help with breastfeeding, post-partum care, light housework, and meal prep upon request. Ultimately, a doula allows a birthing mother and her support team to be fully present in the moment without having to remember what to do next. Research studies indicate that mothers who use a doula’s support have more positive feelings about their birth experience, fewer C-sections, and less request for pain medication and narcotics.
A Different Birthing Experience
Emotional and physical support for a birthing woman is not a new concept. In many cultures where medical intervention is not as common, mothers and grandmothers make up a support system based on years of experience. However, the large shift from home birth to hospital births in the early 1900’s changed not only the way women birth, but also their access to a support system. During this time, some women were not allowed to have a support person in the delivery room, others were given drugs that treated pain but left them with no memory of their births, and many more were given optional C-sections. In our culture, women of previous birthing generations cannot relate their experiences to the newest evolution of birthing practices, because every generation of birthing women since the 20th century had a drastically different birthing experience. A doula’s role is most important when a woman is seeking to have a different birthing experience than the women in her support system.
A Mother’s Mental Health
Research and mental health awareness are paving the way for looking at birth from a new perspective. Childbirth, and the experience that surrounds it, has a lasting impression not only on a woman’s physical health, but equally impacts the mind and soul. In a non-medical emergency, limiting a woman’s choice in providers, birthing options, and support can lead to a woman feeling out of control in the least and to PTSD and a host of other associated problems at worst. Trauma not only affects mental health but also a woman’s ability to bond and parent their children.
The Benefits of Doula Care
A common misconception about hiring a doula is that they are only beneficial for women seeking an unmedicated, vaginal birth. However, when any woman understands the changes and sensations of each stage of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, it helps to reduce fear and anxiety. Eliminating this type of stress gives a birthing woman a feeling of empowerment and connection to their body. When doulas provide physical support through massage, position suggestions, and comfort measures, it allows women to relax and work with their body’s strength to progress labor and reduce the need for interventions. One of the most important roles of a doula is to keep the support team fed, rested, and educated so that they can participate in the birthing process in a very meaningful way.