A doula is a birth companion or coach that provides emotional support to mothers before, during, or after childbirth (and physical support, as needed). Doulas may also provide support to a mother’s partner and family members and are often referred to as the dad’s “best friend”.
Doulas can make a great addition to a family’s birth experiencefor multiple reasons. They are there to advocate for you and to help you process information as it comes, especially if interventions are needed. They can help direct partners on what to do to better support the laboring mom including techniques on how to help them cope with pain. Although doulas are typically certified, they are not classified as medical professionals and therefore, are not able to administer medication.
A recent Cochrane review found that when a woman has continuous support during labour, either from a doula or other healthcare provider, birth outcomes for both mom and baby were greatly improved (Bohren, et al., 2017 Cochrane review). Improved birth outcomes included: more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth, reduction in use of pain medication including epidurals, and reduced need for vacuum, forceps, or Cesarean assisted births. In addition, women had more favourable feelings about their birth experience overall, their labors tended to be shorter by approximately 40 minutes, and their babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth.
Start looking for a doula as soon as possible after you find out you are pregnant, as the popular ones tend to book up quickly!
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