Most dads aren’t cut out to be labor coaches. So, who provides the missing link? Consider a labor support person. This woman, and probably a mother herself, brings the relaxed, natural approach of the midwife to a traditional hospital birth. Her presence means a mother does not have to rely solely on her husband for help in dealing with pain – she can instead enjoy his emotional support and love at a time that is special, but stressful, for them both. Though a friend can certainly be a labor support person, mothers typically have the best results when they hire a professional labor assistant (or PLA, also called a labor support doula or a monitrice).
Here are the benefits of using a labor support person:
- PLA provides comfort and companionship to the laboring mother.
- PLA has special obstetrical training, either as a midwife, obstetrical nurse, or educated laywoman
- Her knowledge of and experience with birthing, and her sole focus on the mother’s needs make her a unique and, to our minds, indispensable part of a hospital birthing team.
- The PLA coaches, counsels, supports, and anchors a laboring woman, helping the process move more quickly and comfortably.
- She, along with the hospital staff, acts as an advocate for the parents’ wishes, freeing mom and dad to focus on the labor and impending birth.
- Woman-supported labors are shorter (by as much as 50 percent) and more natural than non-supported hospital labors. (In one study 18 percent of unsupported but only 8 percent of supported mothers had cesareans; fewer supported mothers had epidurals, episiotomies, and perineal tears.)
- PLA’s are often instrumental if mothers choose to avoid interventions (such as I.V.’s, epidurals, and internal fetal monitoring).
- PLA’s are especially valuable in high-risk pregnancies where the necessary use of such technology makes natural methods of pain control much harder to use.
- The downside of using a PLA, is you may end up paying for this service yourself – fees ranging from $500 to $700. Negotiate with your insurance carrier if you can, but don’t hesitate to take the money out of savings if you have to. Your hospital or obstetrician may have a list of PLA’s for you to call, but most mothers find their PLA’s through childbirth educators, local La Leche League groups, and the recommendations of friends.
A resource for PLA’s:
Doulas of North America (DONA), PO Box 626 Jasper, IN 47547; (888)788-DONA Fax: (812)634-1491 Doula@DONA.org