Eight Benefits of Doula Support During Labor

Labor and delivery is a lot like free-fall parachuting. You can take classes to prepare. You may file a detailed plan for the (blessed) event. Still, jumping into the action with only your partner’s support seems scary. Even experienced moms can benefit from a doula’s help. Here’s how:

Benefit #1: Continuous Care

Most moms agree: Labor and delivery nurses are angels in scrubs. Unfortunately, demands on nurses are intense. A doula is an asset even if you’ll receive one-on-one care. In labor and delivery, there are really two patients: you and your baby. Nurses must update charts, consult physicians and monitor the baby. A doula stays focused on you, start-to-finish.

Benefit #2: Shorter (Safer) Labor

Studies show doula-attended labors are 25% shorter on average. Who wouldn’t want that? “Long, drawn out labor can be physically and emotionally challenging, even if a woman is medicated and ‘comfortable’,” says Ann Fulcher, CLE, CD, program manager for the Hearts and Hands Volunteer Doula Program at the University of California, San Diego. Shorter labors are more effective, and there’s less time for infection or other complications to develop, says Fulcher. Doula-assisted moms are also less likely to receive epidural anesthesia, forceps delivery, or a cesarean.

Benefit #3: Cool Tools

A doula’s tool kit often contains scented oils, ice packs, heating pads, and a birth ball. Doulas also know which labor positions relieve pain and increase effectiveness. Her bag of tricks gives you access to a range of coping techniques and leaves room in your own suitcase for organic cotton onesies and post-partum snacks. And if you dislike the music she chooses or find the hot pad uncomfortable, your doula will redirect her approach without taking it personally. Your husband? Not so much.

Benefit #4: A Smart Start

Even if you took Lamaze or watched seven seasons of A Baby Story, you might forget what you learned when contractions start. Doulas certified by DONA International study the childbirth process, pain management techniques and breastfeeding, and they’re graded during three pre-certification births, says Lori Hill, CD, LCCE, DONA’s Director of Public Relations. Doulas typically meet with a client well before B-day to get acquainted, answer questions and make plans. This ensures you’re both on the same page.

Benefit #5: Less Stress

Doula-supported moms report less distress during labor, and emotional perks pay off physically. When you’re stressed the body releases adrenaline, activating the fight-or-flight response. “In simplest terms, adrenalin suppresses oxytocin, the hormone that makes labor happen,” says Fulcher. So if a mother is anxious, scared or angry, stress hormones may cause labor to stall. “That’s where the doula’s informational and emotional support comes in,” says Fulcher. Doulas are useful even for medicated labor and surgical deliveries.

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For more information about doulas or find a doula near you visit www.findadoula.com and http://www.dona.org.

Fees for private doulas range from $300 to $1,000 depending on experience and location, says Lori Hill, CD, LCCE, Director of Public Relations for DONA International.

Before hiring, ask a doula about:

  • Training and certification
  • Number of births attended
  • Favorite soothing strategies
  • Views on medication during labor
  • Personality
  • Fees and payment schedule, and
  • Back-up coverage

Don’t just look for experience, look for passion. Ask “Why did you become a doula?” or “What is the best part of your job?” Her responses will help you see whether she’s right for you.[/sws_blue_box]

Heidi Smith Luedtke
About Heidi Smith Luedtke

Author Heidi Smith Luedtke, PhD, is a personality psychologist and mom of two.

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