What is a birth doula?
The word “doula” comes from the Greek word for “woman who serves.”
Throughout history, women have been giving birth with the support of female family members and friends. Drawings and illustrations of this milestone event often show a doula or midwife assisting with the birth, and one or more women giving comfort and attending to the needs of the mother.
Childbirth in modern times has become a more clinical affair, with the result of increased safety for both the mother and child during this once-dangerous experience. Babies are delivered in hospitals, with doctors and nurses attending to the birth.
One person, often the father of the baby, is usually present to provide the mother with encouragement and other non-medical support. In recent years, however, there has been a trend toward returning in part to traditional ways. Awareness of the need for strong emotional support, in addition to medical expertise, has surged among expectant parents. While the baby’s father is an important part of the event, he is often faced with the daunting task of dealing with his own apprehensions, in addition to providing support to the mother. This is when the presence of a birth doula is highly beneficial. The word “doula” comes from the Greek word for “woman who serves.” Birth doulas are trained to be supportive partners of the parents during the childbirth experience. Their goal is to “comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals” (DONA International).
A birth doula serves to enhance the positive experience of childbirth by providing the following:
Studies have found that the presence of doulas during a birth often leads to shorter labors with fewer complications. Doulas provide physical comfort measures such as lower back massages, and encourage breathing techniques that ease pain and discomfort throughout the process. In the end, the laboring mother is less stressed and fearful of the experience.
During the intense experience of childbirth, a woman’s emotional needs may fluctuate drastically. A trained doula understands that this is a normal part of labor, and will offer support as needed. She is there to encourage and reassure, all while respecting and following the mother’s wishes. The mother thus becomes more focused and confident of herself as she delivers her child.
Stress Relief for the Partner
Most traditional birth experiences rely on the male partner to perform a variety of tasks during an intense situation. The result is that he becomes stressed and sometimes unable to appreciate the happy event until after it is over. The presence of a doula lifts many responsibilities off his shoulders, and allows him to become involved according to his comfort level.
Enhanced Communication between Expectant Parents and Medical Staff
The birth doula may serve as a go-between for the expectant parents and the medical staff. She doesn’t make decisions regarding the medical care of the mother or child. Instead, she ensures that information is relayed both ways, and may also provide objective feedback when requested.
A Positive Birth Experience
A mother in labor is more relaxed when she knows that she has someone who is knowledgeable and whose goal is to support and care for her as she brings her child into the world. A doula’s work is to ensure a positive birth experience as much as possible. These benefits are just some of the advantages of using the services of a birth doula. Many studies have shown that the outcomes of childbirth often improve when a doula is present. These include less physical discomfort, a more relaxed and happier mother, better parent-child bonding, and enhanced breastfeeding, which in itself leads to healthier newborns and mothers.
Here at All Body Kneads, I will begin providing birth doula services for mothers-to-be in the greater Lansing area. These services are in addition to the excellent spa and massage services that are already available to you. Contact me today for more information.