What is a Doula?
Doulas are women who are trained to provide continuous support throughout labor. They help mothers find the most comforting positions and movements, and use massage and other time-tested techniques to reduce tension. A doula who has been through many deliveries can often reassure a woman who may be feeling panicky or overwhelmed.
Doulas can be good for fathers, too. It’s the rare father who can soothe a laboring woman’s pain and anxiety as well as a trained doula, especially when the father is anxious himself. By taking over these tasks, the doula frees up the father to be with his partner in a loving way, rather than as a coach. Most fathers feel supported by the doula rather than replaced.
There have now been many good studies on the effects of doulas, and the results are powerful. Doulas have been shown to reduce the need for cesarean sections and epidural spinal anesthesia. (Epidural anesthesia, although often a godsend, does have some risks; for example, it increases the risk that the baby may run a fever, and therefore needs to be given antibiotics after delivery.) For more information about doulas, see www.dona.org.
A Birth Doula
•Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
•Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
•Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
•Stays with the woman throughout the labor
•Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions
•Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
•Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience
•Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level
A birth doula certified by DONA International is designated by the initials CD(DONA). DONA International has the highest certification standards for doulas worldwide. When a doula has earned the credential of CD(DONA), it shows that the doula has met all the requirements of our rigorous certification program.
Why use a Doula?
Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.
DONA International doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
•tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
•reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
•reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
•reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
Research shows parents who receive support can:
•Feel more secure and cared for
•Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
•Have greater success with breastfeeding
•Have greater self-confidence
•Have less postpartum depression
•Have lower incidence of abuse