Updated: Jan 12, 2021
A Certified Labor Doula is a birth coach providing non-medical support during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the postpartum period. She will support the couple at home, on the way to the birth location if an option other than homebirth is chosen, and remain with the parents until the mother is settled after the birth.
The goal of a doula is to adapt to and support the birth philosophy of the mother in order to have a positive and safe birth experience, whether the couple has chosen an unmedicated birth or has chosen an elective cesarean. The doula is the only one outside of family who is hired by and there specifically for the mother, and has no conflicts of interest such as employment by the physician/ midwife/ hospital or any other reason for bias.
Doula support includes physical, emotional, informational, and advocacy. Doulas create a calm environment and and can use massage, touch, and pressure as well as keep you nourished with food and drink. Examples of emotional support from a doula include showing they care, processing the birth experience, and praising you for your hard work. Doulas support you with evidence based information and explanations of medical terminology to help guide you decide among your many available options. When it comes to advocacy, doulas help you understand your rights in childbirth, informed consent and refusal, and encourage communication between providers and parents.
The scientific evidence on doulas is encouraging. There are over 25 randomized studies testing the effects of labor support on over 15,000 birthing people, resulting in the conclusion that people who receive continuous support are less likely to need pain medicines, negative feelings about birth, or a cesarean. These mothers also experienced shorter labors, and babies less likely to have a stay in the NICU or after birth complications. The best results happened when the continuous support was given by a trained and certified doula rather than someone a part of the mother's friends and family or a staff member of the hospital.
Doulas should be viewed as a valuable, evidence-based member of the birth care team. As it is stated by Evidence Based Birth, " Of all of the ways birth outcomes could be improved, continuous labor support seems like one of the most important and basic needs for birthing people. Research has shown that labor support from doulas is both risk free and highly effective!"
Written by Valerie Griffith, founder of Blessed Mama Birth Care.