Doulas of North America, the largest professional association of doulas, says a doula’s presence at birth can result in shorter labor, less need for Pitocin, forceps or vacuum extraction – and fewer requests for pain medications and epidurals.
But what does a doula do?
“When a woman is in labor, there is often this circle of fear, pain and tension,” says Missy Kacy, a birth doula in Lake Orion. “When you’re afraid, your body tenses up and it makes labor hurt more, and that makes you more afraid. If you understand what is going on, though, you’re more relaxed. You experience less pain. Doulas can help you relax.”
Kacy meets with expectant parents twice before baby is born to discuss birth plan and desires. Then she remains on call for the two weeks before and after the baby’s due date. “I am in town and available by phone, email and text 24 hours a day.”
She meets at the couple’s home or birthing center and is there to comfort laboring moms and provide relaxation tips. Moms having C-sections can benefit too. “They may be able to have a ‘gentle C-section’ that would allow mom to have the baby laid right on her chest after delivery.” Doulas deftly link moms with options.
Postpartum doula Jill Reiter, aka The After Baby Lady, steps in after mom and baby are home. She provides new parents with support by assisting with breast-feeding, helping with baby so mom and dad can shower or nap – even light housekeeping.
“Doulas essentially ‘mother the mother,'” she says. “I want to make sure she is well taken care of. I’ll also watch to see if mom is showing signs of a postpartum mood disorder. If so, I will put her in touch with a mental health professional in her area.”
Reiter notes her services are sometimes especially needed in the case of multiples or if parents don’t have any family in the area.