Doulas and Their Impact on Birth

31 January 2017
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When pregnant mothers frequent my office, we often discuss their birth plan along with their pregnancy experience. Typically, women committed to chiropractic care are of the more natural mindset and plan for unmedicated births whenever possible. One of the biggest pieces of advice that I offer is to hire a doula. Not just any doula, but a doula who you feel connected with.

You will read about how a doula will support a birthing mother and help educate couples about birth; some are even known as postpartum doulas and help after the baby is born. But what you will not read is about the emotional support, the true in-the-moment help that a doula provides. There is an unselfish act of giving herself – her entire being – to ensure that a mother brings her child into the world safely, and as peacefully as possible. A doula does not push her believes or choices on families, but instead, she accepts and fights for what a mother wants. She will spend hours, even days, foregoing her own needs to support the birthing mother. These are the events that the research cannot tell you.These are the stories you must hear from mothers who have given birth with a doula present.

There is also a science behind childbirth and doulas. Actually, there is quite a bit of science. Researchers have studied how doulas impact birth, and the results are nothing less than I would expect. Labors involving doulas are significantly shorter with greater progress (dilation) made before entering a hospital or place of birth – and far more progress before the accepting of medical interventions (epidural). Research also shows the having a doula lowers the risk of an unplanned cesarean section and increases APGAR scores at both 1 and 5-minutes post-birth.

to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education, “Doula-assisted mothers (are) four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding. Communication with and encouragement from a doula throughout the pregnancy may increase the mother’s self-efficacy regarding her ability to impact her own pregnancy outcomes.”

It is more than just emotional, physical, and educational support that a doula gives to a birthing woman. She is her advocate. Her voice helps account for the reduced need for interventions during birth, less complications, and an overall happier experience during and after birth.
Research shows that doulas create a:

  • 12% increased chance of spontaneous vaginal birth
  • 28% decreased chance of c-section
  • 31% decreased chance of accepting an epidural
  • 34% decreased chance of being unhappy with the birthing experience as a whole

It is important to note that doulas can be utilized for any birth situation. A planned c-section still needs support and advocating – just as much as an unmedicated vaginal birth.

I feel as though many couples are afraid of having “another body” in the room with them, but to these couples, I encourage you to reach out and interview doulas in your area. The right doula will never feel like a body taking up space, but as a partner in your birthing team. Hospital nurses have been reduced and their time is spread thin. The days when a nurse was by a woman’s bedside throughout her labor as a supportive figure are gone. This paired with our society’s need to intervene with the birthing process, leaves many couples feeling defeated. A feeling that belongs nowhere near pregnancy, labor, or birth.

One of the largest take aways from the research is this: There is absolutely zero harm that has been proven in having a doula present for birth.

 

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1552-6909.2006.00067.x/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647727/

https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/benefits-of-a-doula/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub4/abstract

http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10631824

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/114/Supplement_6/1488.full