To understand the purpose and value of labor support I think you have to first understand why you would even need support to begin with. No matter what you are trying to achieve in life, it is much easier to reach your goal when you have people: loved ones or strangers, there to encourage you and remind you why you are pursuing that goal in the first place. I can imagine no greater place for the need of continuous support than in the endeavor to grow and birth a human being.
When a woman decides to give birth, whether naturally or with pain medications, she is going to need a lot of support. She will need someone to help her discover her own strength. Someone to help her with the enormous amount of information she will be taking in and help her learn how to choose what is best for her and her baby. Support does not mean that we make choices for her, take steps for her or rescue her from difficult choices.
A doula has the honor of being invited in to a very private and deeply personal event in the lives of a family. A doula has to make sure to always evaluate her role in the happenings of the “birth” day. Everyone attending a birth has a specific function and role. For example: the physician is responsible for the clinical well being of mother and baby. The nurse is responsible for the clinical care as dictated by the caregiver’s orders and hospital policies. The father/loved one is there with intermittent support and physical comfort. And the doula, is there continuously for the duration of the labor as a continuous presence with emotional support, physical support, non-medical advice and guidance for the partner.
When trying to study the benefits and outcomes of a continuous doula, Penny Simkin compiled a review of the research that had been conducted to show such information. Her findings found that the obstetric outcomes “in hospitals where intervention rates were very high, doula care lowered the intervention rates.” There are also some positive physiological outcomes linked with the support from a continuous doula including, according to the study, “enhanced breastfeeding, better maternal-infant interaction, less postpartum depression and anxiety, and greater self-esteem. Also higher maternal assessments of their baby when compared to the ‘standard baby.’ And greater satisfaction with the birth experience.” (Per DONA International, paper “Benefits of a Continuous Doula”).
If going by those benefits alone, it is obvious that a doula is a huge help to better the outcomes for mothers and newborn babies. There are many other benefits that come from having a doula. Among them, from my own personal experience, was her understanding. My doula knew the enormity of the task at hand: Labor. She understood what I was going through and also understood, and had great confidence in, what my body was made to do during labor. Her confidence was contagious. In those moments when I was ready to “give up” (as if I could) she would quickly remind me what beautiful reward I was about to hold, the reward for all my hard work.
So tell me, momma’s, what was your best memory from your labor support?