doula | dou-la (noun): a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth
During labor, women have many ever-changing needs based on what stage of labor they are in and/or how they are feeling throughout. In addition to the safety medical professionals, and the love and support provided by their partners, women need continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need to know they are well-cared for based on their individual needs and desires. This is where the presence of a doula becomes significant.
Research shows that childbirth does go more smoothly with a doula: labor is 25 percent shorter, the need for epidural pain relief is 60 percent less and the Caesarean section rate is reduced by half. -Susan Gilbert
Typically you will meet with your doula in advance to discuss your fears and any questions you may have. Doulas are on call throughout the duration of your pregnancy and will remain with you during the entirety of your labor, with few breaks. Not only does a doula support the woman in labor, they are also a support person for a woman's partner and/or other family members.
Types of support given by doulas:
Emotional support | reassurance, nurturing words, connection
Physical comfort | comforting touch, counter pressure, breathing techniques
Nonmedical advice and suggestions | bridge of communication between women and their providers with evidence-based resources
The popularity of a doula is rising in the United States. According to a national survey in 2012, 6% of women utilized a doula during childbirth (Declerq et al., 2013), up from 3% in 2006 (Declerq et al., 2007).