A doula is a trained and experienced labour support person who attends to the emotional and physical comfort needs of laboring women. They are in addition to your care providers (midwife or gynecologist and the kraamzorg or nurse.) They do not perform clinical tasks such as heart rate checks or vaginal exams, but rather use massage, acupressure, aromatherapy, positioning suggestions and emotional support to help labour progress as well as possible. A labour doula joins a laboring woman at her home or in hospital, and remains with her until a few hours after the birth.
The word doula comes from Greek, and refers to a woman of service. Medical researchers Marshall Klaus and John Kennell, who conducted the first of several randomized clinical trials on the medical outcomes of doula attended birth adopted the term to refer to labour support as well as prenatal and postnatal support.
50% reduction in the cesarean rate
25% shorter labor
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in oxytocin use
30% reduction in analgesia use
40% reduction in forceps delivery
Your partner is also becoming a new parent, and he/she may have apprehensions or fears. The doula is there to support you both. The doula allows for the partner to participate at their own comfort level. Some partners prefer to be there only to witness the birth of their child and to share this experience with the woman they love. When the partner chooses to be the major source of emotional support, the doula can supplement his or her efforts, making suggestions for comfort measures, and offering reassurance and support. During a long tiring labor, she can give the partner breaks to rest and recharge. Often the doula gives a partner the confidence to be more actively involved in the birth, and the couple comes closer together through this experience.