What is a Doula?

                                                                              Art Work by Jessica Begin

 

A birth doula is an experienced companion who supports a woman during the childbearing year, usually with an intensive focus on the final trimester, labor and birth and postpartum period. 

 

Birth doulas are trained to provide continuous emotional, physical and psychological support to birthing women and their partners. A doulas primary role especially during labor is therapeutic.  

Doulas do not take a clinical role and work alongside midwives and doctors.

 

They do not advise, but can support a woman to find balanced information to make informed decisions about her maternity care.

 

The doula’s role is tied solely to the birthing person’s agenda and her primary responsibility is to serve, support and advocate for that agenda.

 

 

Research Based Evidence

 

Research based evidence shows;

 

People who receive continuous support are statistically more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and Cesareans. 

In addition, their labors are often shorter by about 40 minutes and their babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth. There is a smaller amount of evidence that doula support in labor can lower postpartum depression in mothers. There is no evidence for negative consequences to continuous labor support.

 

In short evidence shows:

 

  • Reduced risk of Caesarean birth
  • Reduced risk of instrumental birth 
  • Reduced need for painkillers or epidural during birth.
  • Reduced rate of induction of labour 
  • Shorter labour 
  • Increased parental satisfaction with the birth experience.
  • Increased likelihood of initiating breastfeeding 
  • Increased likelihood of successfully establishing breastfeeding & breastfeeding at 6 weeks
  • Lower incidence of depressive symptomatology.
  • Low five‐minute Apgar score 

This research based evidence can be found on the World Health Organisation, where recommendations are made for women to have the kind of continuous support during pregnancy and labor that is offered by a doula. The most extensive research  was done by The Cochrane review  see link below but it substantiates the above bullet points. This trial involved over 15000 women. For an extensive list of papers researching the benefits of the therapeutic presence of a doulas can be found on Doula UK website (https://doula.org.uk/research/).

 

 

Cochrane Review

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28681500

 

World Health Organisation 


https://extranet.who.int/rhl/topics/preconception-pregnancy-childbirth-and-postpartum-care/care-during-childbirth/care-during-labour-1st-stage/who-recommendation-continuous-companionship-during-labour