Sarah is preparing to go to nursing school and some of her pre-requisites required that she write certain types of essays. As you can imagine, most of the essays were birth related if it fit the criteria for the essay. This last essay due is a persuasive essay. So of course Sarah had to write about why every woman should have a doula! A grade hasn’t been received for the essay yet, but we would love you, the reader, to give her a grade and leave some feedback!
“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” – John H. Kennell, MD. This phrase is powerful and probably one of my favorites that is related to birth work. A doula is a professional childbirth support person, who has specialized training and often is certified, but is not a medical professional – unless the doula happens to hold separate medical licensing too. As a doula I provide you with all the information you could ever need, if I don’t know the answer to a question you have; I can find it.
Doulas support you emotionally throughout pregnancy, during labor and postpartum as well. We comfort you physically with massage, position suggestions, breathing techniques. Most of us have a doula bag full of tools to aid a mom during labor as well. As a doula our job is to help you know about all of your options and to be empowered in your decision making, to open the lines of communication between family and medical personnel and even translate medical jargon into easy to understand terms.
Dad and other family members are not excluded in the support when a doula is in the picture either, we provide emotional support for everyone in the room. A lot of women ask “Why should I hire a doula? I have my husband/mom/sister to support me. I didn’t have a doula for previous births so I don’t need one this time.” I like to say that having a doula for the first time is like having a Starbucks drink for the first time; you don’t know what you are missing until you have one!
Doulas improve overall birth outcomes. This happens in several ways. Studies show that having continuous labor support from a doula – not a family member, friend, or hospital employee – is when the best outcomes occur (Gruber, Kenneth J.). Up to a 31% decrease in use of Pitocin, a 28% decreased risk of a cesarean section, 12% more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth, 9% decrease in use of pain medication (which may not seem like a lot, but our biggest delivering hospital has a 93% epidural rate so it would make a small dent in that), a 14% decrease in the risk of baby being admitted to the NICU and a 34% decrease in the chance of mom being dissatisfied with her overall birth experience (“The Evidence On: Doulas.”). Considering that our nations cesarean rate is hovering around 32%, which is double to triple the recommended cesarean rate, any opportunity to help bring that number down is a great tool to utilize (Almendrala, Anna).
A study from Minnesota found that women who had a doula were 22% less likely to have a preterm birth. By reducing the cesarean rates, doulas can save private health insurances about $1.74 billion each year and state Medicaid about $659 million (Bess, Gabby). Even the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend the use of doulas during birth for their benefits and helping to shorten labor times (“Women’s Health Care Physicians”).
Even in the event of a cesarean, planned or unplanned, a doula is beneficial to have in the delivery room (Dekker, Rebecca). A doula is the constant, and the familiar even when the birth plan goes out the window. While physically there is not a lot that a doula can do in the operating room, the emotional support is most important. Taking pictures, making sure mom and dad are both understanding what is happening every step of the way, reassuring them both that everything is ok and their baby will be with them soon. Often baby goes to a warmer with a nurse immediately after birth and dad goes along too. This leaves mom alone, but with a doula by her side she’s never alone. In the OR I give constant reassurance and describe baby to mom if she cannot see baby, how beautiful baby is and how wonderful everyone is doing.
Being on the operating table can be such a lonely experience, and a doula changes that dramatically. We help facilitate skin to skin and breastfeeding in the OR as soon as possible to help mom have that golden hour of bonding and get breastfeeding off to the right start. I always have lots of tips for moms during the recovery of a cesarean so they have the easiest and quickest healing period possible. Having extra training through the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has helped me to become a better doula for cesarean moms and to be better able to help moms avoid an unnecessary cesarean.
As a doula, I am always furthering my education to learn more about the physiological happens during pregnancy and birth. I’ve been studying pregnancy and birth since 2005 and I still learn something new at every birth I attend. Keeping up to date on new studies, ACOG recommendations, local hospital policies and even going backwards and reading old books to gain helpful information is crucial to me as a doula. Women deserve the very best care while they go through this life changing time, and I strive to give each woman just that. My very best.
Doulas also provide postpartum care to new moms. Having a doula postpartum is said to decrease the likelihood of a mom developing postpartum depression (Chee, Allie). We continue to take care of the mother after she has become a mother herself. While friends and family come over to see the new baby in the days and weeks after birth, a postpartum doula comes to make sure mom is taken care of so she can focus on taking care of her new baby. We do things like run errands, go get groceries for mom, clean up around the house, dishes, laundry, making sure mom has eaten and stays hydrated. By lifting this burden from new moms, we are helping her heal; physically and emotionally.
The birth of her child(ren) is a time that is going to be forever remembered by a mother. Our goal is to make sure that she has the best memory possible. That her birth(s) are stories that she wants to tell repeatedly, being filled with joy and empowerment when she thinks back on that time. 25-34% of women say their births were traumatic (B, Danielle). That number is too high. Our hopes are that through our work as doulas we can lower or eliminate the percent of women who experience birth trauma and replace it with a higher number of women who felt empowered, respected and in charge of their births.
Almendrala, Anna. “U.S. C-Section Rate Is Double What WHO Recommends.” The Huffington
Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 02 May 2017.
B, Danielle. “14 Women Share The Heartwrenching Details Of Their Birth Trauma.”BabyGaga. N.p., 25 Apr. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.
Bess, Gabby, Andalusia Knoll Soloff, Kimberly Lawson, Leila Ettachfini, Sophie Wilkinson,
Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, Amos Mac, and Annabel Gat. “Every Pregnant Woman Should Get A Doula, Study Says.” Broadly. N.p., 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.
Chee, Allie. “A Postpartum Doula for Every Motherby Allie Chee.” A Postpartum Doula for
Every Mother – by Allie Chee. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.
Dekker, Rebecca. “A Doula Facilitates Skin-to-Skin in the Operating Room.” Evidence Based
Birth®. EBB, 01 Oct. 2015. Web. 02 May 2017.
Gruber, Kenneth J., Susan H. Cupito, and Christina F. Dobson. “Impact of Doulas on Healthy
Birth Outcomes.” The Journal of Perinatal Education. Springer Publishing Company, 2013. Web. 02 May 2017.
“The Evidence On: Doulas.” Evidence Based Birth®. EBB, n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.
“Women’s Health Care Physicians.” Approaches for Ob-gyns and Maternity Care Providers to Limit Intervention During Labor and Birth in Low-Risk Pregnancies – ACOG. ACOG, n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.