Monday, October 28, 2013

What is a Labor Assistant or a Doula?

Doula: δούλη 
From the ancient Koine Greek (Biblical Greek)
 -a slave, bondman, person of servile condition
- devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests; a servant, attendant

When talking to folks about doulas, I often hear the same questions, the conversation goes something like this:

Me: Hiring a doula can make a huge difference in your birth experience, especially if you plan to give birth in the hospital.
Them: What's a doula?
Me: A doula is someone who assists you during labor. She will help you with comfort measures...
Them: Oh, like a Midwife?
Me: No. A doula doesn't provide any medical care. She is there to provide comfort...
Them: Well, my husband/ partner/ best friend/ sister will be there so I don't think I need a doula.

I have tried to come up with a more concise quick answer to the "What is a doula?" question, but I fail at it over and over.

  • 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin*
  • 28% decrease in the risk of C-section*
  • 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth*
  • 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
  • 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
  • 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience*

So, what does a doula *do*?
The answer to this question can different for every woman and in every labor, but here are a few things she will do:

She will offer some education about birth and labor.
She will be a guide through your labor, birth and the first hours after your baby is born.
She will help your partner be present and active in the labor.
She will come to your house to labor with you there if you want her there.
She will stay with you for your entire labor (we do have to pee sometimes, though).
She will use your birth plan as a tool to remind you of your wishes.
She may suggest positions that can assist progress of labor, optimal fetal positioning
     or provide some relief from pressure or pain.
She will work with the staff to meet your needs.
She may use massage, accupressure, aromatherapy, relaxation techniques to help
     you along.
She may act as your DJ (keep your music going).
She may pick up your camera and take photos.
She may translate medical terms into layman terms for you.
She will help you get started breastfeeding.
She will help you talk through your birth in the first hours and days postpartum.

Here are a few things you doula will not do:

She will not make decisions about your care.
She will not speak to the staff on your behalf regarding medical care.
She will not take your partner's place.
She will not do clinical tasks such as blood pressure, cervical checks, etc.

I hope that clears it up a little bit.  I know, it doesn't help much with those quick conversations in the grocery store line.  What about you? Do you have a concise answer to the "What is a doula?" question?

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