We have a secret in our culture. It’s not that birth is painful - it’s that women are strong.
Laura Stavoe Harm
Over many centuries, history has shown that childbirth is altered by culture, law, medicine, medical staff, situations, and ideas. Yet, history proves the strength, dedication, and power of women to overcome pain and conquer, no matter the circumstances. Childbirth is a natural process — it ought to be empowering, inspirational, and beautiful. A mother giving birth should feel strong, confident, and loved — not weak, fearful, and disregarded.
Childbirth is an opportunity for the mother and her partner to experience welcoming a precious soul into their loving arms. Without crucial support for the laboring mother at this vulnerable time, the memory of childbirth can be painful, upsetting, and depressing. A laboring mother deserves to feel supported by everyone on her team at every moment during the birth. The honor of being chosen to attend a mother’s labor and assist her during that time should never be taken lightly.
If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.
John H. Kennell, MD
A birth doula is a non-medical part of the support team who is trained to provide emotional, physical, and informational support to the mother and her partner in the months prior to, during, and immediately following birth. The support of a doula can be shown through a variety of ways — advocating for the mother’s birth plan, showing comfort measures and techniques, giving sincere words of encouragement, referring the mother to helpful advice or holding the mother’s hand through labor. A doula provides a professional support system without crossing lines into the medical field, and is held accountable by a specific scope of practice according to the organization through which the doula has received training.
With the continuous support of a doula, studies show a decrease in the need for Cesarean delivery or any medical interventions (i.e. pain relief and instrumental delivery), as well as reduced mortality rates. Simultaneously studies show an increase in shorter labors and higher Apgar scores.
It’s not consent if you make me afraid to say no.
Doulas are wonderful advocates for a mother’s birth wishes. During pregnancy and birth, there may be confusion or miscommunication with the many different people entering and exiting the picture. A doula can provide evidence-based education to the family, time and space for the mother and partner to think through each step, and empowerment for the family to remember to use their voices — it is the mother’s body and the couple’s baby, and a mother should never be afraid to ask questions, ask for explanations, or even say “no.” Doulas are not there to speak for the family, but instead to remind the family that they can use their voices to express their concerns, calmly and confidently.
Whenever and however you intend to give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body and your spirit for the rest of your life.
Ina May Gaskin
A mother deserves a doula whether she makes the choice to give birth in a hospital, birth center, or at home — no matter her age, background, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity. When a mother and partner are choosing their support team, it is important to remember that birth can be overwhelming, even scary, with all of the different emotions, hormones, and changes happening every moment. The partner and support team will be the constant and steady anchor of the whole experience for the mother. While hiring a doula to be a member of the support team is not going to ensure that the birth goes exactly the way that a mother states in her birth plan, a doula can assist in guiding the experience of birth to be positive overall.
A doula is not there to replace anyone on the team who was chosen to be at the birth — but instead to fill the role of providing support to the whole team and to show by example how to support and help the mother and baby. During labor a doula can be an anchor in difficult times, a dancing partner, a reassuring voice, or simply a coffee runner to allow a partner to be present and stay with the mother constantly. A doula is an open and non-judgmental heart, a listening ear, a voice in difficult times, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, a friend to laugh with, and a constant support.
Every woman deserves a doula.