What's A Doula? Hint: They May Give You A Better Maternity Experience
As more and more women swear that their birth experiences are better when flanked by a doula, interest continues to trend up and the use of doulas continues to rise. I have to admit, I'd never heard of a doula until about six months ago, but was surprised to learn that the term was coined in the '70s and since then, the use of doulas has increased slowly and steadily. Now, the word "doula" is seemingly everywhere.
So What's A Doula?
Derived from Greek, "doula" actually means "women's servant." A doula is a non-medical companion who assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth. Since the beginning of time, women have been cared for and nurtured as they become mothers, so when you think about the role of a doula, it actually seems quite natural. What pregnant woman or new mom doesn't want a little extra nurturing??
Julie King is a mom of two who recently transitioned from a physical therapist to a trained birth and postpartum doula & placenta encapsulation specialist (yes, we need to revisit this in a future blog.). She explains that there are birth doulas and postpartum doulas:
"A birth doula is professionally trained to provide evidence based information, emotional support, and physical support throughout pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. A postpartum doula’s training focuses on supporting families after childbirth in order to build confidence and independence with infant care, feeding, and the transition period that occurs with the birth of a new family member...One of the greatest benefits of hiring a doula is the continuum of care that your doula offers to you. Your doula may be the only professional who is with you consistently through pregnancy, your entire labor and delivery, and the postpartum period."
Do I Really Need A Doula?
I didn't have a doula with my son and that's because I'd never heard the word. But truthfully, even if I had, I don't know that I would've used one. I delivered my son via emergency C-section, left the hospital a few days later, and lived to tell about the next few crazy months. Overall, I had a fine experience. Sure, a little extra nurturing would be nice, but is it really necessary? Ms. King explains,
"I didn't have a doula with my first baby, and once I learned more about them, there was no way I was having my second without one. It was a significantly better experience. Nurses, doctors, and midwives are amazing, but they can't be with you constantly because they are attending to other patients. Having the constant support of a doula was a game changer."
According to DONA International, the world's first & largest doula-certifying program, research shows that women who use a birth doula are more likely to rate their birth experience positively and are less likely to need Pitocin, have a caesarean section, or use any pain medication (😮).
"One of the most important messages to remember about a doula is that they are trained to provide non-judgmental and unbiased support. Doulas support ALL types of birth, including hospital birth (unmedicated, medicated, and surgical birth!), home birth, and birth center births. The job of a doula is not to ensure that your birth goes a certain way (if only anyone had that kind of power!) but to help prepare you for making choices and to provide unwavering support for the choices you do make."
Will I Consider A Doula?
It's becoming increasingly hard to argue the benefits of doulas when so many women are sharing their positive experiences and urging others to give it a try. Considering my first pregnancy required both Pitocin and a C-section, perhaps a birth doula wouldn't be a bad idea next go 'round. I'll definitely be giving it some thought, but I can assure you I won't be ditching the pain medication, doula or no doula.
If you're interested in finding a doula near you, check out this great website.