Doulas and a More Natural Birth
I am 24 weeks pregnant and considering hiring a doula. How can they help me have a more natural birth experience?
You are absolutely wise to hire a doula to help you have the birth experience you want. In my experience as a mother and childbirth educator, I conclude that having what I call a professional labor coach (PLC) is one of the best life-long investments you can make. Here are the benefits:
Lessened Pressure for Partner
Your coach, or labor support person, is probably a mother herself so she introduces a relaxed and more natural approach into the atmosphere of the traditional hospital birth. Also, dads really appreciate a labor coach for two reasons: 1) you don’t have to rely solely on him, and; 2) he can do what dads do best – simply love and support you during your labor. Men coach sports, not laboring women.
I remember how I used to teach husbands to coach their wives in all the breathing techniques during birth. Later to realize that they’re unlikely to remember what they learn in a class. Instead, now I simply tell them, “Be the dad, love your wife, and leave the ‘coaching’ to a professional labor support person.”
Also, studies show that mothers who have a labor coach enjoy: shorter labors, fewer medical interventions, a lower incidence of surgical births, fewer episiotomies and perineal tears, and fewer epidurals.
In the unlikely event you need more medical intervention to help you have a safer birth or you are in the category of a “high-risk pregnancy,” a labor coach helps balance the emphasis on technology and helps dial down your “high risk” label.
Labor coaches really shine by empowering a mother to listen to and labor with her body and make wise birthing choices. If a complication arises, requiring decisions to be made about technology and surgery, you may not always have a clear enough mind to understand your options completely. A professional labor coach acts as an advocate or go-between. She can help to interpret the medical information for you so that you can easily understand it and be part of the decision.
More good news is that because experience has shown that labor coaches often save medical costs, especially by lowering the need for a surgical birth, you may find that your medical insurance may cover part of the cost. Check with them ahead of time.
Make a Plan
Midway through your third trimester is a good time to start interviewing prospective labor coaches. While you’re interviewing prospective doulas you may want to work out a plan where she comes to your home at the appropriate time after labor begins. She will help you labor more effectively at home and know when it’s time to leave for the hospital. Having a doula at home often reduces the number of “false runs” to the hospital.
Your birth is one of the most memorable experiences of your entire life. Do whatever you can to make the best of it. Wish you a healthy birth!
For more information about increasing your chances of having the birth you want, read our book, co-written with a midwife and a university obstetrician, The Healthy Pregnancy Book.
Written By: Martha Sears, R.N.
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”