By Taylor Walker Sinning, HypnoBirthing Educator, Pre/Postnatal CES, Childbirth Doula, and Mama of 2
Pregnant, postpartum, or struggling with loss? A doula can be a wonderful support in mind and body during these life-changing times. A doula is someone who provides non-medical support to women and their families during labor, childbirth, and the postpartum period. There are also doulas that solely specialize in bereavement after loss of a child, family member, partner, or friend, and even doulas who provide support to new siblings during and after labor and delivery.
Childbirth doulas are probably the most common and are becoming more common in a traditional hospital setting. Evidence across a variety of clinical trials has shown that women who receive continuous support during childbirth were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have birth fear and unwanted interventions (which can look different for different women but might include pain medication like epidurals or use of forceps). They’re also less likely to have cesarean births. The studies also show that continuous labor support may lead to shorter labor and babies less likely to have low Apgar scores. Apgar scores are a quick way for care providers to determine the health of the baby shortly after delivery.
10 Ways Doulas Support Physical and Mental Health
They create a calmer environment.
Bright lights, loud noises, and disruptive routines can lead to tension and fear which can slow down the labor process for some moms. Birth doulas can act as a buffer, help the birthing and support persons make informed, calm, and empowered decisions, and create an environment supportive of physiological birth. They can also effectively support a home birth or birth center birth seamlessly.
They offer support for pain.
Doulas offer continuous support and can utilize acupressure, massage, and other tools to help manage pain. When these tools are combined with continuous support and guidance for the partner, women are less likely to request epidurals and pain medication which ultimately decreases the risk of intervention.
They provide birth education.
They support Black mothers.
They provide resources.
They even support partners!
They set the tone of the labor space.
They provide positive feedback.
They serve multiple roles.
They prioritize mom.
As a mother of two kids under four, I look back to both of my in-hospital HypnoBirthing water births as two of the most magical and powerful days of my life. When I decided I wanted an unmedicated water birth and decided I wanted a doula I went to a “speed dating” session with a group of doulas in my area. When interviewing doulas, you want to make sure that your personalities are similar. Don’t be afraid to interview multiple times. You want someone who matches your energy, listens more than they talk, and really hears and supports your vision for birth.
My first doula was my soul sister. I remember us doing this birthing dance when she met me in active labor. She coached my husband all the way through, and when I was in transition, she massaged me with warm oil and helped me to breathe my baby down. We were silent and connected on almost another worldly level. When we were admitted to the hospital, she set the tone. She eliminated a loud nurse from the space and had our backs the entire time. We were a team and that experience led me to the birth work I do today.
Because of that experience, my husband really was able to take charge the second time around.
It was him and I in tandem. Hip squeezes, light touch. And oxytocin-fueled connection. He was my biggest advocate when all I wanted was intermittent monitoring and it was a completely different level of trust and intimacy we created in that space. Our second doula took on a more supportive role. She took pictures, got ice packs and really just let us do our “thing”. There was space for both, and it truly helped me to understand that support can be there in many different ways and I would not have changed a thing.
If you are considering hiring a doula for any facet of your pregnancy or postpartum journey, I cannot recommend it enough. If cost is an issue, explore options like reaching out to your insurance company, using a Healthcare Savings Account, or reaching out to a new doula or doula in training using Facebook to join Midwife, Doula or birthing groups in your area. Some major cities like New York now even offer free Doula Support programs! It may take some work, but when you find the right one, it will be well worth the reward.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/