A doula "mothers the mother." She offers continuous support for the laboring mother. After attending so many births, these coaches have deep wisdom, comfort and encouragement to offer and they serve as liaisons between the doctors, nurses and your partner during the process. They serve as educators, advocates and cheerleaders for the laboring mother while keeping the family calm. A doula is trained in the birth process and in how to help alleviate extra stress of the unknown. Penny Simkin, a famous doula and co-founder of DONA International, writes in her book, The Birth Partner that when you replace knowledge with fear, pain diminishes. This is one of the main roles of the doula; however the doula also provides continuous physical, emotional and spiritual support before, during and after childbirth.
The doula can coach the laboring mom in breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. She also assists families in gathering information about the course of their labor. Labor support usually includes prenatal and postpartum meetings or home visits, 24-hour on-call support, massage and counter-pressure during labor and help with positioning for the mother’s comfort. Not to mention photos of your baby immediately after birth!
Birth coaches help facilitate an easier birth. According to Mothering the Mother, by Marshall Klaus, John Kennell and Phyllis Klaus, studies have shown that the physiological effects of continual support during labor reduces:
- chances of needing a c-section by 51%
- length of labor by 25%
- use of analgesia by 35%
- Pitocin augmentation by 40%
- epidural anesthesia use by 60%
- use of forceps and vacuum by 30%
DONA has more than 6,000 members and is one of the most well respected networks of doula’s available. Find the doula that is right for you. You don’t have to pick the first one you meet with. Ask many questions, especially about her philosophy on birth and support women and their partners through birth.