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Looking back, hiring a doula for my second birth was one the best decisions of my life.
Or should I say, NOT hiring a doula for my first labor was one of the most stupid things I ever did.
But no one told me I should hire a doula.
No one ever mentioned that having a female support can mean a world of difference.
No one told me what doulas really do and more importantly, from which terrible experiences having a doula could have spared me, if only I had one. But I didn’t.
What does a doula do?
According to medical books, a doula is a professional labor assistant who provides educational, physical, and emotional support during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. While a doula helps women with guidance, information, and explanations of procedures, she does not replace the members of your health care team (which consists of midwives, nurses and doctors).
A doula’s most important role is to provide all kinds of help during labor and delivery. However, the doula’s role is not limited to childbirth companionship. There are also antepartum and postpartum doulas.
If i had to extract the essence of what doula did for me, I’d say: doula helped me connect with my inner self; with my female instincts, with my autonomic nervous system, call it any way you want.
In the course of preparations for my first birth, I often thought of America’s leading midwife, Ina May Gaskin and her famous advice: “Let your monkey do it”. Doula helped me find my monkey.
Humans may be the most evolved of all the mammalian species, but birth is one process where our big brain hinders us to act instincively. And doulas have power to lay a bridge between these two worlds.
Why hire a doula?
The relationship with your doula usually begins a few months before the baby is due. During this time your relationship with the doula should develop and you should feel free to ask questions and express your concerns.
You should not expect medical care from your doula. Doulas are not medical professionals and do not give medical advice. In best case scenario, your doula will become a knowledgeable friend that you can call and talk to at any time.
More and more hospitals are recognizing the support and benefits women have with doulas, so they are opening their doors to this relatively new practice.
During delivery, the doula will be in your proximity and encourage your partner to be there as well. The doula will often use the power of touch and massage to relieve you from stress and anxiety. After delivery you can expect your doula to spend some time helping you begin the breastfeeding and encouraging bonding between your baby and other family members.
Important benefits of having a doula
Another great benefit of having a doula is that she won’t leave you alone in the most dramatic hours of your life.
Everyone else will – doctors attend several patients at one time (and some will need more medical attention then you), your partner may be overwhelmed with the situation and just not supportive in the way you would like them to be.
Before labor really starts happening, no one actually thinks about the fact that doctors and midwives may change shifts in the middle of the process, and sometimes are only present during the final stages of birth (to me, both situations occured during my first birth and I was actually alone with my husband through most of the contractions).
Doulas do not take shifts or leave during a labor. It is her job to be there and support you from the beginning till the end.
Doula doesn’t have other patients at that important moment and her focus is on the mother. It’s a fact that women have complex needs during childbirth. Unlike nurses who need to take care of other patients, the doula’s only obligation is to be by your side.
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Studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40%, and requests for an epidural by 60%. Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor.
Do you still need your partner in the delivery room when you’re hiring a doula?
A doula will never take your partner’s place in labor, but rather complement it in order to enhance the experience for both of you.
Having said that, I would like to let you know that some top-experts in the area of natural childbirth still think that a male presence actually amplifies anxiety and that women in labor can best benefit from help of other women whom they know and trust. To me, this makes sense.
Though I personally could not imagine NOT having my husband in the delivery room and luckily he guided me though my first birth almost as good as my doula through the second one, I must add that in 2009, famous French obstetrician and the guru of natural birth Michel Odent suggested that having the father in the delivery room slowed down the production of oxytoxin, a hormone which helps the labour process and prolonged birthing alltogether.
In the article you can read here, Dr.Odent said: “…The ideal birth environment involves no men in general. Having been involved for more than 50 years in childbirths in homes and hospitals in France, England and Africa, the best environment I know for an easy birth is when there is nobody around the woman in labour apart from a silent, low-profile and experienced midwife – and no doctor and no husband, nobody else.”
Some recent studies (like Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes) indicate that support from doulas during childbirth is associated with: four times less likeliness to have a low birth weight baby, two times less likeliness to experience birth complications, and significantly higher likeliness to initiate breastfeeding.
Numerous studies have documented the benefits of having a doula present during labor. Research is now focused on finding a solid link between a doula’s assistance and the decreased use of pain relief medication during labor, as well as a decrease in the length of labor.
But if you decide to hire a doula to follow you through one of the most important moments of your life, then please please make an interview and ask her as many questions as you can before signing a contract. You should ask your potential doula about her training, experience, and number of times that she has attended delivery.
I cannot stress the importance of liking your doula enough. The key to choosing a doula is to find a person that you feel comfortable with.
The chemistry between the two of you must work. After all, having a doula during the most intimate experience in your life should help you have a memorable and empowering childbirth experience.
Still I’m not saying that everyone should have a doula.
A good example is a friend of mine who set her mind to have a C-section the moment she got pregnant (and she got pregnant following her fifth or even sixth IVF). So after so much emotional pain, she did not consider for one second to take any risk of giving natural birth and no doula and no conversation could make her change her mind.
I’ only saying that benefits of such a person are amazing, and in situations where your partner might be away (or unsure if he wants to attend the delivery), your parents live in another country (like mine do), and your best friend is not available, having a doula can only change your childbirth experience for the better.
Let me know if you agree. See you soon,
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