Why Parents Hire Birth Doulas Today
© Brenda Lane
Several reasons parents hire birth doulas today include a desire for more support during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Medical Benefits of Hiring a Doula
Numerous studies in the last 25 years have clearly demonstrated the value of a birth doula during the process of childbirth. Some of the evidence has shown that fewer mothers ask for medication or require medical intervention such as the use of pitocin to induce or speed up labor. Mothers who use doulas are more likely to have shorter labors and fewer cesareans compared to mothers who did not have a doula. Mothers also tend to breastfeed their babies longer and have a more satisfying birth experience if they have used a doula. In fact, a recent survey indicated that mothers gave the doulas the "highest rating" for the best supportive care over any other member of the birth team including nurses, doctors and nurse-midwives.
Parents can have many reasons for hiring a doula that may or may not have anything to do with the research results. Here are a host of reasons parents may want to use a doula.
Other Reasons Parents hire a Doula:
A desire for additional support during labor, with or without a primary labor partner.
A history of a previous long or challenging birth.
Greater access to non-pharmacologic methods of pain relief.
Mothers with special needs such as those planning a VBAC, single mothers or those who cannot use pain medications such as an epidural.
For additional help with breastfeeding techniques and postpartum support after birth.
To assist parents in having a natural or unmedicated childbirth.
How Doula Support is Unique
A common misconception is that the labor and delivery nurse with be providing the same type of support as the doula. Parents believe that the nurse will be there with them continuously and help them with pain relief techniques. The reality is that the typical labor and delivery nurse in the hospital has multiple patients. She is required to keep extensive records on all of her patients at the same time. In fact, one study showed that only about 10% of the nurse's time was spent supporting the laboring woman with her physical or emotional needs.
Doulas do not work in shifts or have multiple patients. They care for the individual needs of the mother and stay with her until the baby is born. Not only that, but the birth doula is not a stranger to the mother and therefore she can act as a familiar guide through the long and often challenging hours of labor.
Parents are also discovering that having a midwife with them during labor also does not guarantee one-to-one support. Certified nurse-midwives are busier than ever these days and often cannot provide individual, continuous attention to mothers in labor, especially in hospital settings.