Do I need a Doula?
The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because
it is you.
The best benefit of having a Doula is that you will have someone by your side that is experienced in childbirth. As a doula, I can help you identify what stage of labour you are in; I can reassure you when things are normal and help you decide what to do if they are not. I stay with you continually from beginning to end and I am there with you, as my only concern. I am not preoccupied with other patients; in fact I don't regard you as a patient. I will not leave your side to go on lunch break, talk to my coworkers about who's working what shift and how badly the management sucks, I won't leave to go home because my shift is over, I won't enter into your birth environment 12 hours into your birth and tell you what has been happening and where you are at as if you didn’t know! I will stay with you for you by your side, along for the ride.
In a home birth, you won't have a nurse. Your Midwife will arrive usually later into the labour when things are well on their way. This means it is up to you and your partner to manage everything in your home--getting water to drink, massaging, filling the tub, getting towels, getting the kids or dog to the neighbour, packing a bag in case of emergency, getting the blankets and buckets ready, and lets face it, as darling as your partner is, you can't expect them to be able to hold your hand and keep you focused while running to get a puke bucket, turning the tap off in the bathroom and keeping their calm and collected self together for you.
In either the home or the hospital, it is important to have at least one person who is there especially for you and your partner. It just helps keep everything together. It can take a lot of stress off of the mother because she knows she is not alone, she is comforted by having the presence of another woman (who is experienced) and she can forget about getting everything ready and therefore focus only on her body and her spiritual-emotional transition into motherhood. Likewise, the partner can be more present for the mother if there is an atmosphere of calm and there is someone there just to support them.
So why can't this person be a family member? Well it can be. But choose this person wisely. Will this person really be able to support you and your wishes? If this is your sister, mother or best friend, chances are they will have a difficult time seeing you in pain. Partly because its painful for them, but also because it catches them off guard. They are used to seeing you in certain ways, which may inhibit you, but also might frighten them. Also, if something really challenging comes up, they might not be able to think rationally and support you because they are in shock from the what if?
Having someone slightly removed from you, like a hired doula, you can expect a level of professionalism because this is their profession. You don't have to worry about their needs as much because they know what to expect and a good doula will be prepared and able to take care of their own needs in a discrete way. Unlike family members, Doula's anticipate being called at 2 in the morning after only an hour of sleep. And, they look forward to being with you and supporting you regardless of the sleepless, messy and emotional reality of birth.
These statistics are often reported to women thinking about using a doula. But how exactly is it that they work?
Benefits of having a trained doula:
50% reduction in caesarean births
25% shorter labour
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in oxytocin use
30% reduction in analgesic use
40% reduction in forceps delivery
From Mothering the Mother by Klaus, Kennell, and KlausThe interesting thing for me was seeing them work and feeling a little tingle in knowing that piece by piece, we can put birth back into the hands of birthing women. Let me share a story with you. In January, I attended a planned hospital birth with a young lady, age 16. We had gone to the hospital at 8pm one evening with her contractions coming regularly every 6-7 minutes for a few hours. The triage nurse checked her and she was at 2cm. I knew we were in for a long run. She was admitted at 5am and hours passed with slow but steady progress. We walked up and down the stairs for a few hours, she had several stints in the Jacuzzi, they broke her water and augmented her contractions. Interventions began after she was in the hospital for 18 hours. The baby was clearly in an OP position meaning that the head was looking straight up at the ceiling while mom laid in bed. The baby just refused to turn and the Dr.s kept coming by and threatening a c-section. Mom really did not want to have a C-section and was willing to do some hard work to avoid it. She had an epidural in the afternoon since her extremely painful back labour and the lack of sleep were making things difficult. This young brave woman pushed her baby for 4 hours. The Dr. returned every hour to check on the baby's heart rate, which was just fine thank you. Between this young mom, a wonderful nurse and myself, we formed an alliance and kept strong and fought the threat of the C-section. The doctor came in 2 times with a crew to take mom, but with courage and dignity, she refused. Had she been alone, scared and dissempowered, the is no doubt in my mind that her baby would have been born under the knife. But with the proper informational, physical and emotional support, she pushed her healthy baby out of her womb and into the world. That night, 18 babies were born, and only 2 were non cesarian. Sunny-side-up babies rarely make it into this world vaginaly in hospital settings. But she certainly made it work.