The Gentle Support of a Doula Can Make A World of Difference

If you are like many people who have never experienced the care of a doula, you may ask, “Why do I need a doula?”

Others who can see the benefit of a doula when a woman has no other support, still wonder, “Why would someone need a doula if they have a midwife and their husband with them during labor and delivery?”

Numerous studies have shown that regardless of having a midwife, husband or other family member present during labor, women who had doulas that were with them continuously during labor experienced marked differences in their birth experience. Overall, women supported by a doula have a higher rate of vaginal birth; experience fewer medical and surgical birth interventions; use less pain medication including narcotics and epidural analgesia; have shorter labors; and experience more positive feelings about their childbirth experience than women who do not have a doula. They have reduced personal health complications including less postpartum depression; they bond better with their babies and have better breast-feeding experiences.

Take a look at the supporting statistics below to see the amazing difference doulas are making in the lives of mothers and babies:  [SAR1] .

Increased Vaginal Deliveries: Only 12% (25 out of 204) of women with no-doula in a Houston TX study delivered naturally, compared to 55% (or 116 out of 212) of women in the doula-supported group. It is fascinating to reflect that the presence of one caring woman continuously present throughout labor resulted in such a large difference. [1]

Fewer Medical and Surgical Interventions: Researchers noted the following outcomes in doula-supported hospital births compared to routine hospital births:

  • ~ Reduced administration of analgesics by 31%
  • ~ Decreased use of oxytocin to stimulate labor by 50%
  • ~ Decreased forceps deliveries by 34%
  • ~ Decreased cesarean sections by 45%.[2]

In another study, birthing woman were put into three groups (those receiving epidurals, those receiving narcotics and those with doulas).  The outcomes showed that  33% of the epidural group, 26% of the narcotic group and only 13% of the doula-group developed a fever during labor. Also 25% of women in the narcotic group went on to get epidurals versus only 6% of doula-supported mothers. [3]

Shorter Labors — Interestingly, woman who received continuous doula support had shorter labor periods. In the one study, the average length of labor for women with doulas was 9 hours versus 19 hours for women without doulas. An amazing 10 hour shorter average labor! In a second study, we see doula-supported women having even shorter average labors (7.7 hours) compared to the group of women who had no doulas (15.5 hours). In a third study, labor length for women supported by a doula was 7.4 hours, in contrast to 9.4 hours for the no-doula group. [4]

Other Benefits: Other benefits included improved perceptions of satisfaction and psychological responses of both parents and their relationship with their baby. The doula’s knowledge of the birth process and support techniques help to alleviate parents’ tension, fear and apprehension. This reduces the release of stress hormones (adrenaline) in the mother which can slow down the progress of labor (even reverse it!). Research shows that when mothers experience stress, fear and anxiety it negatively impacts both short and long-term infant emotional and mental health[SAR2] .

Mothers with doulas report feeling more secure and feel more positive about themselves and their ability to handle challenging situations. These moms also have:

  • ~ Reduced incidence of infection
  • ~ Reduced bleeding/hemorrhage
  • ~ Reduced postpartum depression
  • ~ Increased breastfeeding success
  • ~ Shorter hospital stays.

All of these things translate into improved bonding with their babies and improved infant health outcomes. Finally, in health care systems that welcome doulas there are reduced health care system costs, and happier patients and providers.

The gentle support of a doula can make a world of difference!