Have you ever considered hiring a doula for birth support? In the wellness community, we interact pretty regularly with doulas and others offering birth support, so we want to highlight the incredibly important work they are doing!
What is a doula?
A doula is someone who is not a medical practitioner (i.e. not a doctor, nurse, or midwife) but who is a trained and certified professional and a valuable part of your birth team and can offer a wealth of support for you and your partner in what YOU want both during pregnancy, birth, and during the postpartum period.
A doula can provide education to help you make informed decisions regarding your birth plan, and advocate for and empower you in your choices. This may include helping you find the most comfortable movement and positions during labor, helping your partner in supporting you, providing help with post-birth recovery (physical and emotional), assisting with baby-related tasks, or perhaps even making food for you or helping you find healthy and practical food solutions when you bring your baby home. A doula may also offer coaching on helping your baby sleep. Basically, a doula is someone who can respond to your individual needs to help you have the most positive possible birth and postpartum experience.
In terms of the research behind doula support, thank you to the wonderful Colleen Young and Patricia Conner of local business The Doula’s Daughter for highlighting the following study on their website:
According to the study “Continuous support for women during childbirth” (Bohren, Hofmeyr, Sakala, Fukuzawa & Cuthbert, 2017), “Continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for women and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low five‐minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences.” In other words, having a doula can help you to have healthier and safer birth outcomes in a variety of ways!
And because we know that Black women in particular have significantly higher maternal mortality (as well as infant mortality) rates in the United States, access to doulas and higher quality medical care and patient advocacy before, during, and after birth is particularly crucial. Read more in Linda Villarosa’s New York Times article “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis” (2018) to learn about how a combination of toxic stress (Geronimus’ “weathering hypothesis” explains negative health outcomes as a result of living in a culture of discrimination and socioeconomic inequality) and a dismissal of symptoms by medical professionals creates greater risk for Black women and their babies.
If you are looking for local birth support for yourself, a partner, a family member, or a friend, here is a list of the doulas, birth centers, and other resources we have come to be aware of in the community: