If I had a time-turner and could go back to my first pregnancy to change one thing, I would hire a doula to support me in my labor.
I had a doula the second and third time and can’t begin to tell you what a difference it made!
A doula is, simply, a non-medical, continuous labor support person. You might think your care provider will take on this role, and wonder why a doula would be necessary. The truth is that unless you’re receiving care from a homebirth midwife, it’s very likely that your care provider will be in and out of the room frequently, and only continuously present during pushing.
My labors were long and all began deep in the night, and my doulas showed up to support me, back labor, posterior kiddos and all. Lots of women say their male birth partners feel hesitant about hiring a doula, because isn’t their job to support the laboring mom?
To them I say, there’s more than enough work for everyone. Doulas can teach birth partners techniques to keep mothers comfortable. Doulas and dads can take turns distracting older children, apply pressure to different parts of mom’s body. Labor is so intense and so transformative. Who wouldn’t want an expert on labor to join their team?
Childbirth Connection analyzed 21 randomized, controlled trials of 15,000 laboring mothers and found that “Continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm.” Women with a doula were:
- 28% less likely to have a cesarean section
- 31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) to speed up labor
- 9% less likely to use any pain medication
- 34% less like to rate their childbirth experience negatively
Even though all of my births ended in cesarean section, I was able to have my doula with me in the operating room to take pictures and hold my hand while my husband focused on me and the arrival of our sons. What a comfort to have an additional, familiar face comforting me during those scary moments.
My favorite part of having my doula present was the breastfeeding support immediately after surgery. Doulas take breastfeeding courses as part of their certification, and so they can help moms get babies latched. Even when my arms were numb, my doula was there to position my baby to my breast and help us get skin-to-skin time in the recovery room.
So, for Labor Day, I’m thinking back to my wonderful doulas and the hard work they did supporting me through my hardest work.
Did you have a doula with you during labor? Leave us a comment to share your experience!