Do It With a Doula
One of the buzz words in labor and delivery today is the word "doula". What is a doula? Is it a good idea to have one when you deliver? These are important questions, and ones that will help you to define what type of delivery you anticipate for yourself.
What's a Doula, Anyway?
A doula is a labor support person who has been trained to offer guidance to the laboring woman. She is not a medical professional, and she doesn't help to deliver the baby. Rather, she spends the labor and delivery helping the woman to breathe correctly, recommending positions and activities to help ease the pain of labor, and encouraging the woman with her words and actions.
How Can a Doula Help Me?
Most women who hire a doula do so because they are hoping to have a natural birth. They want the doula to guide them through the process and to help to suggest ways to ease their discomfort. They can certainly be helpful should you end up using medication, but their main role is to offer emotional and physical support. They can help you to write your birth plan, to decide on the location of your birth, and to help you to understand your various medical and medicinal options. They will often meet with the couple a few times before delivery, helping you to define your goals. They are able to explain medical procedures and to figuratively and literally hold your hand through the birthing process.
When it's time for labor, a doula can help you to determine when it's time to leave for the hospital or the birthing center. They can help you in your house during the early stages of labor, and can help you to check into the hospital. They'll offer physical support, rubbing your back, massaging your legs, helping you to take a shower, and other items. They can also help you to understand what is happening during your birth, particularly if you are birthing in a hospital. Often times, the husband finds it overwhelming to try to support his wife, to be her advocate, and to navigate through the medical environment. The doula's role is to compliment the husband and to take the pressure off of him so that he doesn't have to try to perform all of these roles.
Immediately after delivery, the doula can help you to begin breastfeeding. She can show you how to hold the baby and how to relax so that you can enjoy this important time right after delivery. She'll come to check on you a number of times after the delivery and can answer questions about nursing, the baby's health, and your own recovery.
Studies have found that women who hire a doula experience a 50% reduction in the number of Cesarean births that they experience, 25% shorter labors, a 60% reduction in the request for an epidural, and a 30% reduction in the need for forceps. Research also shows that women who had a doula have less anxiety and more confidence with their baby six weeks after delivery. Particularly if you are considering a natural birth, hiring a doula may be a great decision for you. It alleviates the burden placed on your spouse, and allows the birthing process to be a smoother, gentler experience.