The term “coach” has become mainstream on and off of the sports field. We’re now used to hearing about fitness coaches, life coaches, and business coaches, but a labor and delivery coach? That’s still new news to most people.
Meanwhile, the reality is that birth doulas have been around for centuries. In fact, the greek translation for “doula” means “female servant for childbearing woman.” Doulas are there to support women's needs as they go through labor, including providing physical comfort, emotional assistance, and words of encouragement, as well as educational support.
If you’re new to the world of birth doulas, here’s a quick glimpse into what you can expect when it comes to labor support.
What’s the Role of a Birth Doula?
A doula is meant to be part of your birthing team, but she does not replace or step into the roles of the other members of the team, such as your medical providers or partner. The medical staff is there to monitor the mother’s and baby’s vital signs, give medication to induce or augment labor, perform assisted deliveries and c-sections if necessary, and complete the subsequent repairs.
While nurses may suggest tips to help mom stay comfortable or positions to try during labor, they do not stay in the room. Nurses and doctors have other patients to attend to and they will come in when necessary to perform their job duties and then leave again. This gives the laboring mother plenty of time to labor by herself.
If the laboring mother has a partner, they may be present in the delivery room. However, they may find themselves at a loss as to what to do or say to help the laboring mother stay comfortable and encouraged. Many partners want to be helpful and all they need are a few tips and pointers to get started. This is another area where a birth doula can come in and be helpful. She can bridge the gap between the partner’s motivation to help and the knowledge to do so. A doula also provides labor support.
What Is Labor Support?
A birth doula coaches the laboring mother through every stage of labor. She can provide:
● Suggestions to cope with the contractions
● Tips to naturally encourage the progression of labor
● Emotional encouragement
● Additional options to choose from as different situations arise
Giving a laboring woman options during a time in which she very likely feels out of control because there’s very little control over birth has been found to be highly emotionally beneficial. In fact, a meta-analysis of 15 high-quality randomized controlled trials of continuous support from around the world showed that overall, women who received continuous labor support were less likely to experience:
● Epidural or other regional analgesia
● Any analgesia/anesthesia, including epidurals and opioids
● Birth with vacuum extraction or forceps
● Birth by cesarean
● Dissatisfaction or a negative rating of their experience
Birth doulas are trained to start providing education prenatally, which means they provide labor support long before women actually give birth. The sooner into pregnancy a woman can find and hire a doula, the better.
There are also a variety of doulas trained to help at different stages of life. For example, there are doulas trained specifically to assist a new mother in the postpartum period - these are called postpartum doulas. There are also doulas who specialize in helping with death. Therefore, a doula is really a person there to guide and support another individual during the transition of life coming into or out of this world. No matter what kind of support you need, a doula can assist you as you adapt to life’s changes.
Want to learn more about what labor support could mean for you? Check out my birth doula services here.