Before labor, birth doulas develop a relationship with their client, where the mother feels comfortable asking any and all questions related to her experience and can freely express her fears and concerns. They can also help with making a birth plan and educating the mother on different positions she can use during labor, relaxation and pain coping techniques, and what to expect during labor. They will also make themselves available by phone or email, so that the mother can continue to ask questions and develop a stronger relationship with her doula.
During delivery, birth doulas help with pain coping techniques including massage, breathing techniques, laboring positions and a consistent voice of encouragement. They are also there to encourage partner participation, if desired and provide support to the couple during labor. This can be done by reminding the partner of things that might be helpful to the laboring mother or stepping in so that they can take a break. Birth doulas are not there to replace the partner, but only to enhance their experience and take the pressure off of them, if necessary. Birth doulas can also act as an advocate for the mother and help her to make informed decisions.
After birth, birth doulas provide support in breastfeeding and make wonderful referrals to lactation consultants if necessary. They also screen for postpartum depression and can make referrals for this as well. It is also an opportunity for the mother to process her birth experience with someone who was there alongside her.
Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of having a doula present during labor. In fact, it is 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%”. Having a doula at your birth can dramatically enhance your birthing experience, regardless of what type of birth you have.
Klaus, M., Kennell, J., Klaus, P. Mothering the Mother.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.