by Kerry Tuschhoff
What is a doula?
A doula is a non-medical birth support assistant. She provides a birthing woman with physical, emotional and informational support at childbirth, whether the birth takes place in a hospital, home, or birth center.
Her primary concern is the mother, although she may also support other members of the family who are present. Doctors, nurses and midwives usually are not in a position to provide this continual support as they are caring for more than one patient at a time, and cannot stay in the room with the mother. They also need to concentrate on the more clinical aspects of childbirth.
A doula's presence does not make a birth partner's presence unnecessary. To the contrary, a doula's presence frees the partner from certain aspects of concern and allows the partner to interact more closely with the birthing woman. A doula's purpose is to aid the mother and help her have the birth experience she wants, thereby leaving her with a sense of empowerment and a beautiful, positive birth memory.
Is a doula's presence at a birth beneficial?
The presence of a professional labor support person -- a doula, for example -- can have a huge effect on the obstetrical outcome of the birth. The combined results of 6 randomized controlled trials on birth support have shown:
- A 50% reduction in the number of necessary cesarean sections
- A 25% reduction in the length of labor
- A 40% reduction in the need for oxytocin (pitocin) to stimulate a slowed birthing
- A 30% reduction in requests for pain medications, such as narcotics
- A 30% reduction in the number of forceps deliveries
- A 60% reduction in the number of requests for epidural anesthesia
What questions should I ask?
It is best to interview several doulas if available in your area. Here are some questions to ask:
- Where were you trained and how long have you been a birthing assistant?
- How many births have you attended as a doula?
- Do you have any experience or knowledge of using (the method childbirth preparation you have chosen) and if so, what?
- Would you be willing to learn more about these techniques and read materials that will allow you to help me in my labor?
- Describe your role in my birthing. What exactly will you do?
- How many times will I see you before the birth? Will my partner be included?
- When will you come to attend me in my labor?
- What other services do you offer? (breastfeeding support, postpartum for mom and dad, new baby care, etc.)
- Do you meet with me (us) after the birth to review our birth and answer questions?
- What is your fee, and what does it include?
- Are there two of your past clients whom I may call?
Most doulas have been trained by one of the organizations I listed above and this is what most moms want to hear. I will say that there are some doulas out there like myself who became doulas through attending their own childbirth class students' births and they are wonderful at it.
A good doula will meet with you at least twice before birth and I would say that three to four times is best to familiarize yourself with her and allow her to get to know you and your partner, your goals and even to work with you in a birthing rehearsal. You really do want to take your time to get a good feeling about someone who will be supporting you during such an important event.
Doulas are worth their weight in gold. They make such a difference to a couple's birth experience!
Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHT, CI, is a certified hypnotherapist, trains Hypnobabies Instructors, is the author of Hypnobabies: Eyes Open Childbirth Hypnosis and is Operations Director of Hypnobabies Network in Southern California. Please check out her website.
Copyright © Kerry Tuschhoff. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.