This week, we asked our wellness expert Dr. Kate Naumes ND to weigh in on Doulas. What do they do? What are the benefits? Do you need one? What do you look for when hiring one?
Here’s what she had to say…
As a naturopathic doctor having also received training as a midwife, I frequently discuss birth options with my newly pregnant clients. Should I have a home birth, birth center birth, hospital birth? Should I use a certified professional midwife (CPM), a certified nurse midwife (CNM), or an M.D.? No matter what you choose, I recommend that you have a doula at your birth.
A doula, as it pertains to childbirth, is a woman trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and some informational support to the mother before, during, and right after labor.
Let’s cut to the chase. Doulas of North America (DONA) International reminds us of the following facts:
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications.
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience.
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans.
- reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals.
Research shows parents who receive support can:
- feel more secure and cared for.
- are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics.
- have greater success with breastfeeding.
- have greater self-confidence.
- have less postpartum depression.
- have lower incidence of abuse.
What are the differences between the role of doula, midwife, loved-one, and nurse? While sitting in on a childbirth education class in Seattle with the esteemed Penny Simkin during my ND and midwifery training, I took the following notes:
- “A doula provides continuous emotional support, physical comfort, non-clinical advice for her client during labor.”
- “A midwife provides clinical care, intermittent support and comfort, and is the organizer of the birth team.”
- “A partner/husband/loved-one may provide a continuous or intermittent presence, varying amounts of support and comfort, and a witness to share birth with the mother. This person is very likely not able to remain calm and objective during labor.”
- “A nurse provides clinical care, intermittent support and comfort, and keeps the primary caregiver (ex. OB/Gyn) updated on the situation of the laboring woman.”
Often a father or partner believes that he/she should be able to provide the laboring woman with all the emotional support needed for labor. However…
- Dads often are exhausted and are going to need to save some energy to take care of the baby when they come.
- While some Dads may take a childbirth education class, this/these class(es) can never entirely prepare a first time father for what labor is really like.
- First time dads typically have no experience with laboring women.
- Dads find it impossible to remain calm and objective due to their emotional connection to the situation.
- Dads often have little perspective on any problems or available options apart from what may have been learned in a childbirth education class.
- Often men feel helpless and distressed over the laboring woman’s pain and are unable to provide any reassurance that what she is experiencing is normal and safe.
So while we know that dad can provide meaningful support, a certified doula is able to provide:
- continuous uninterrupted support.
- knowledge of emotions and physiology of labor.
- experience with laboring women.
- an ability to remain calm and objective.
- perspective on problems and options.
- a deep understanding of how to apply comfort measures during labor.
The doula and the partner work together to provide the best possible emotional and physical support for the laboring mother. The partner is essential in providing long-term commitment, intimate knowledge of the woman, and love for her and the child. DONA International reminds us that a doula also helps a partner feel more helpful and involved during labor. A doula is supportive to both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable and safe.
Dr. Kate Naumes, ND runs a Holistic Wellness practice in uptown. When she’s not spending time with her family, she’s counseling her clients about creative and tangible ways to manage stress in pursuit of optimal well-being. She also provides pre-conception and infertility counseling, newborn and pediatric wellness care, as well as ongoing well-woman and menopause support. Learn more at naumesnd.com.