The Importance of Doulas
Since the beginning of time women have had large support systems throughout pregnancy and labor, but today obstetricians and midwives provide prenatal care and help women deliver the baby. Doulas have helped continue to fulfill the historical role of offering emotional support to a pregnant woman. They offer educational, emotional, and physical support and help advocate for her.
Support is the most important part of pregnancy. It allows the mother to feel at ease, confident, and powerful. Someone needs to be by the woman’s side through the whole thing. If the partner needs to step out or is not there at the beginning, the doula is able to step in and help the mother until then. It can be hard to communicate with your care provider, especially during labor so having someone who knows your exact birth plan and what you want is very important. A nurse’s support only lasts the length of her shift, but your doula is there the entire time. A doula is also able to encourage and show your partner how to offer support. Partners have limited knowledge of birth so your doula can also educate them. Your partner needs to stay hydrated and use the bathroom. A doula is there when your partner can not be.
In 2012, Hodnett et al. published an updated Cochrane review on the use of constant support for women during childbirth. The results of 22 trials included more than 15,000 women. These women were randomized to either receive continuous, one-on-one support during labor or “usual care.” The results of the studies was good.
Birth published an online study suggesting that offering women the support of a certified doula could save Medicaid and private insurers by reducing cesarean and preterm births. More research has shown lower rates of cesarean births and more satisfied mothers. Guidelines for safe prevention of cesarean births show doula care is “probably underutilized”, as said by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. An analysis found that an estimated $986 will be saved with every birth that a doula is present at.
It is unknown how exactly doulas help reduce cesareans and preterm babies, but most believe it is connected with stress. The support of a doula during prenatal care allows women to feel more at ease. Incorporating things like birthing balls and aromatherapy help the mother feel even more clam and comfortable.
Overall the results of births that had a doula present are primarily good. Constant, continuous labor support shows you are statistically more likely to have a better outcome and your baby is more likely to have better outcomes. It is also proven that it is better to have the support of someone who is not in your social group or a part of the staff. Doulas are more effective because the “harsh environment” theory and because doulas are a form of pain relief. In hospitals, there is a lack of privacy and women are subject to routine checkups. There are high intervention rates and most of the staff consists of strangers. Having someone reassuring you makes the situation less uncomfortable. Continuous support also makes it so women are less likely to request any kind of pain medication.
Doulas provide an important support system for women during, before, and after labor. It is proven that having a doula at your birth decreases the chance of risks such as having an unplanned cesarean section or issues with the baby. A woman who wants a doula, deserves a doula.
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