What is a doula?
A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional,
physical and informational support to the mother who is expecting, is
experiencing labour, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to
help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.
Most often the term doula refers to the birth doula, or
labour support companion, labour support specialist ,labour support professionals, birth
assistants or labour assistants.
What are the benefits of having a
Numerous studies have documented the benefits of having a doula present during
labour. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During
Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a
doula was present. With the support of a doula, women were less likely to have
pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a caesarean birth,
and reported having a more positive childbirth experience
Other studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth
team decreases the overall caesarean rate by 50%, the length of labour by
25%,the use of oxytocin by 40% and requests for an epidural by 60%.
Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and
anxiety during labour. According to physicians Marshal Klaus and John Kennell,
massage helps stimulate the production of natural oxytocin.
glands excretes natural oxytocin to the bloodstream, causing uterine contractions,
and to the brain, resulting in a feelings of well being, drowsiness and higher
By contrast, because synthetic IV oxytocin cannot cross into
both the blood stream and the brain, it increases contractions without the
positive psychological benefits of natural oxytocin.
Are doul'as only useful if
planning an un-medicated birth?
The presence of a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you
are planning. Many women report needing fewer interventions when they have a
But be aware that the primary role of the doula is to help mothers have
a safe and pleasant birth–not to help them choose the type of birth.
who have decided to have a medicated birth, the doula will provide emotional
support, informational support and comfort measures through labour and the
administration of medications.
Doulas work alongside medicated mothers to help
them deal with possible side effects and other needs where medication might be inadequate,
because even with medication, there is likely to be some degree of discomfort.
For a mother facing a caesarean, a doula can be helpful by providing constant
support and encouragement.
Often a caesarean results from an unexpected situation
leaving mothers feeling unprepared, disappointed and lonely.
A doula can be
attentive to mothers at all times throughout the caesarean, letting them know
what is going on throughout the procedure. This can free the partner to attend
to the baby and accompany the new born to the nursery if there are