I think that every mama needs to feel supported in her birth and her individual preferences should be respected. I chose home births with a qualified midwife. Others prefer hospital births with a double to help. A birth doula is trained to offer you the best support during childbirth by knowing what to suggest and making sure your desires are being attended to. Today, I am happy to welcome a post from Tara Garner who lives in Nashville and is a wife and mother of three children. She loves serving women as a Childbirth Educator, Certified Doula, Birth Photographer and the Director of NOVA Birth Services. NOVA serves expecting families in the greater Nashville area, through a wide variety of services –everything from education to massage therapy to belly henna.
By Tara Garner
Before I reached 5 centimeters with my first baby, I knew with every fiber of my birthing being that the next time I gave birth, I was going to do it very differently. There I laid, flat on my back, legs spread oceans apart, supported by stirrups with every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and their mamas, gazing down at me in all my bare naked glory. I felt like every person that could possibly be in that room that day was– that is, everyone except a trained doula.
What is a Doula?
A birth doula is a professional and compassionate woman trained in labor support, essentially concerned with all things birth. You say, “Press harder.” She says, “Is this the spot?” You say, “I can’t do this anymore.” She says, “You are doing amazing and everything is normal.” You say, “I’m thirsty,” and she says, “Which do you prefer, coconut water or Gatorade?” You say, “I can’t get comfortable!” She guides you to the perfect position that helps you through the next few contractions. You ask, “What does ‘zero station’ mean?” She breaks down the medical mumbo jumbo into a language you can comprehend, empowering you to experience this day as a mother, as opposed to a ‘patient.’ You say, “I don’t want anyone talking,” and so without words, she speaks volumes of love and care through her eyes, her hands, and her respectful presence.
Before you can utter the words, “I did it! I gave birth to my baby,” she’s already running you a sitz bath to soak your sore perineum, and simultaneously preparing you a nutritious meal to help you re-energize and bond with your baby. Before you have a chance to thank her, you find her thanking you for inspiring her and allowing her to serve. Are these women for real?? I am here to tell you, yes! They really are.
They are for real, and they love every sacrificial aspect of what they do. Their passion and love for mothers and babies fuels their activity to empower families toward a smooth and fulfilling transition into parenthood. A doula exists solely to serve the birthing mother in pregnancy, the entire duration of labor and birth and thereafter. Regardless of what kind of birth–vaginal or surgical, and regardless of birth location, whether hospital, home or birth center, a doula is an invaluable resource for any birthing woman, and because of this, every woman deserves one.
Although it’s a seemingly fresh idea to the western world, the utility of a doula is not an unfamiliar practice for the world at large. For new mothers in most cultures, it has been an ancient ritual to surround themselves with wise, maternal support in childbirth. Women choose to have their babies among the helping presence of other women seasoned in childbirth, who know just how to support them, emotionally and physically, throughout the birth process.
In my labor experience, I had expected my poor husband to be all things to me, and by ‘all things’ I mean, all things doula. I assumed such supportive instincts would come automatically for him–he’s the baby’s father, after all! I have a need in labor, he meets it, right? Not quite. His attempt to be everything I needed was precious and made me fall in love all over again, but in hindsight, he was nervous and robotic as he attempted to keep up with each new command I barked out.
One second I wanted him rubbing my back, the next I wanted my rice sock reheated, then I wanted my music playlist turned louder, then I needed a drink, then more back rubbing, then more ice, and then a cold washcloth for my head, and then more verbal affirmations! Most importantly, I needed him to do all these things (and more) without somehow EVER leaving my side . I needed him to be superhuman. I needed a birth doula! We both did.
Despite our efforts as first-time parents to attend childbirth classes in hopes to prepare ourselves, we both agreed after the birth that the only missing piece to our labor labyrinth was a doula by our side. Oh, how a doula would have enhanced and eased our experience. She wouldn’t have just been there assisting me, she would have assisted my husband to better assist me, allowing him to even better enjoy the experience himself, which was really what we both wanted anyway.
With a doula nearby, everyone wins–the expectant parents, the baby, extended family members, and even the obstetricians, midwives, and nurses involved. Everyone involved in the birth reaps the benefits of the doula’s service. In essence, that is why she is there–to serve and be a benefit–humanizing everyone involved in childbirth.
Benefits of a Doula:
The above personal story illustrates the benefits of a doula towards supporting the mother through the birthing process and even helping the father know what to do and when to do it.
For those who would appreciate further proof concerning the benefits of a doula, the studies have been done and the numbers speak for themselves. There are whole books to show the benefits of having a doula.
Statistics from births with a Doula-
50% reduction in cesarean rate
25% shorter labor
60% reduction in epidural requests
30% reduction in requests for medication
40% reduction in oxytocin use
40% reduction in forceps delivery
reduced incidences of maternal fever
reduced the number of days newborns spent in the NICU
resulted in higher rates of breastfeeding
resulted in more positive maternal assessments of maternal confidence
resulted in more positive maternal assessments of maternal and newborn health
resulted in reduced rates of postpartum depression
(source- Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter Easier and Healthier Birth. Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus)
I hope this helps answer your questions about birth doulas and what it is that they do. There are numerous benefits to having a doula. Be sure to interview one if you have questions about whether a doula would be helpful to your childbirth experience.