A birth doula’s role is to provide continuous support to a person who is giving birth and their birth partner. This is equally, if not more important in a hospital as in a home birth or birth center. Many people believe that between their birth partner and the nurses, it will be all the support they need. However, nurses almost always have multiple patients that they need to care for and birth partners don’t always know how to offer the type of support and advocacy that is needed during labor and birth.
There are a lot of different variables that can effect the progression of labor and physical support can help keep things moving in addition to easing any discomfort the laboring person feels. Not all nurses are trained one how to best use birth balls, water therapy, rebozo, and pressure points to support a mom. These are all things that I am trained in to help with turning a baby, receiving back pressure, opening the pelvis to being the baby down the birth canal, and provide overall physical comfort. The best birth team is one that works together to understand where the birthing person is in their labor and how they can be best supported.
I am proud to say that more often than not, the father or other birth partner is the best person to offer emotional support. However, every person is different. A doula can help the birth partner know when to say what and how to offer emotional support when they are otherwise unsure. They also can offer additional emotional support themselves in a way that a nurse they just met a few hours ago might not be able to.
Although as I doula I am not working in the role of a birth educator, I am well versed in the process of birth and a lot of the different variables. I can provide information on what other women have experienced and direct you to trusted resources where you can read up to know more about any birth related topic. Doctors and nurses have many patients and although I have know some to take a seat and give their patient time to ask all their questions, there is more often than not very little time for this. In reality, no matter where you give birth, education on the process, the possibilities, and the options can help eliminate fear and bring a sense of empowerment to childbirth.
When it comes to hospital births, advocacy is probably the most important thing after education to making sure the birth is an empowering experience for my client. I am by no means ever going to walk into a delivery room and start telling a patient what I think they should do, but I will..
- make sure the doctor, midwife and nurses review the birth plan;
- ask if there is time for the parents to discuss a decision in private;
- ask if the parents have any questions about any medical interventions;
- ask if there are any other options or information my client should know;
- suggest alternatives for the midwife or doctor to consider;
- firmly, but politely repeat any requests made by my client when they appear to be ignored;
Having support during birth can help in a lot of way, and studies have proven it. Studies have also proven that support specifically by a doula can have an even greater impact on reducing cesarean rates and increasing the likelihood of spontaneous birth. Below are the statistics that can be found on evidencebasedbirth.com.
- 25% decrease in the risk of Cesarean; the largest effect was seen with a doula (39% decrease)*
- 8% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth; the largest effect was seen with a doula (15% increase)*
Misconceptions About Doulas and Hospital Births
There are a number of different misconceptions that people have about doula and what they do and don’t do. I want to make sure to clear up a few misconceptions about doulas and hospital births.
#1 | A doula is only for “natural” births.
This is 100% not true. As a doula, I can provide support when an epidural is used, when labor is induced, and even during a cesarean birth. In addition to providing support with the inclusion of these different factors, I can also help you get you evidence based information about each decision to make sure you are informed, help you advocate for what you want, and help you feel at ease with each decision you make.
#2 | A doula is only for homebirths
Although some doula’s do choose to only support home and birth center births, a doula can help a woman, or laboring person, regardless of where they are laboring. In fact, the majority of the clients I have worked with are women who chose to birth in a hospital setting.
#3 | Doctors and nurses don’t like doulas
Although some doctors are more open to the presence of a doula than others, for the most part the interactions are positive. Additionally, most nurses love having a doula around. A doula can help make a nurses job easier as the doula can fetch ice chips, provide comfort to their client, and relay information. I personally have had very positive experiences with both doctors and nurses.