Soon after you get pregnant, you might start putting together your baby registry. You think of all the things you’ll need for diapering, feeding, bathing, and sleep. But in addition to the tangible stuff, you should also consider hiring a doula. There are many benefits of having the support of a doula, but the biggest one is that research shows women who have a doula are more likely to rate their birth experience positively.
RELATED READING :: Birthing Centers & other Midwives/Doulas in the Austin Area
Based on that alone, a doula may be just as valuable—or even more valuable—than all the baby gear that you may or may not end up using. Birth is a life-changing day that can affect your mental health, your postpartum experience, and your journey into motherhood. It is worth investing in it to try and have as positive of an experience as possible.
Personally, I had a doula at both of my births, and they were a huge reason that my experiences were so empowering and joyful. Many people, however, still don’t understand the role of a doula and why they are so important, no matter what your birth plan is.
Here are the benefits of having a doula on your birthing team.
Educational and informational support
Doulas possess a wealth of evidence-based information about choosing a healthcare provider, preparing your body for birth, the different stages of birth, common interventions during labor, postpartum care and healing, breastfeeding, and more. Having access to all of that information is an incredible resource that will empower you during your birth experience.
Physical support during labor
A doula will teach you different labor positions and breathing techniques and help you implement them. They can sense when labor might be slowing and suggest changing positions to keep things moving. A doula will also provide comfort measures like light touch, massage, and counter pressure.
Emotional support and encouragement
Your doula does not leave your side throughout your birth, and their only focus is on supporting you through one of the most intense experiences of your life. Having such a calm, nurturing, and reassuring presence on your team is such a gift, especially during chaotic or scary moments. They can provide a sense of calm and security, and encourage you to push through when it feels too hard or painful to keep going.
A common misconception is that you don’t need a doula if you have a supportive partner. But doulas have experience and knowledge that partners do not, which they use to inform and support both the birthing person and the partner. During my births, my partner was more at ease and did a better job of supporting me because he knew we had an experienced person on our team guiding us through the process.
Research has shown that the most positive birth experiences for fathers were those where a doula or midwife was present. One study found that mothers who had a supportive partner and a doula had lower rates of cesarean birth than those who had just a supportive partner alone.
Fewer labor interventions
A 2017 review of studies on continuous labor support (having someone who never leaves your side) found that women with a doula were less likely to have a cesarean birth, less likely to use Pitocin, and less likely to use pain medication. While these interventions can be beneficial and necessary at times, they carry risks, have side effects, and are not always performed with the health of the mother and baby in mind. Even if you want an epidural, having a doula can help you avoid other interventions and lower the risk of a cesarean birth.
Doulas can help you ask questions and communicate with medical providers, help you verbalize your preferences, and make sure your questions and voice are heard. They can give you time to assess the benefits, risks, and alternatives of various interventions so you can make an evidence-based decision; this is invaluable in a country where maternity care is not always evidence-based. For me, one of the best parts of having a doula was that their support empowered me, a typically more timid person, to be my own advocate during my births.
Less pain and anxiety
Childbirth is a beautiful process, but it can also be full of pain and anxiety. Having the support of a doula has been shown to decrease stress, fear, and anxiety. It can actually make labor feel less painful to the birthing person, and decrease the use of epidurals and pain medication. (Source: Evidence-Based Birth)
Postpartum care in the U.S. is woefully inadequate, with most mothers only having one follow-up appointment six weeks after giving birth. Doulas help to fill that gap, as many offer a postpartum visit as part of their services. At the visit they can debrief on your birth experience, assess how feeding is going, check in with you emotionally, and offer resources. You can also hire a doula specifically for postpartum support.
Improved birth experience
All of the above benefits translate into the biggest reason why you should consider a doula: to have a better birth experience. The 2017 review of studies on continuous labor support found that doula-supported women were 34 percent less likely to rate their birth experience negatively. Their labors were also shorter by about 40 minutes and their babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores.
The bottom line is that doulas improve outcomes for moms and babies, and evidence shows they offer many benefits that can improve your birth experience.
Below are some resources on doulas and how to find one.
Central Texas Doula Association
Find a doula and learn more about doulas through their DoulaShare and Keep Austin Doula’d events
Giving Austin Labor Support
Provides free labor support for all income levels, and free prenatal care for low-income families
For more information on the benefits of having a doula:
Evidence-Based Birth: The Evidence for Doulas
DONA International: Benefits of a Doula
Photo Credit :: Queendom Care Birth