I am a doula, so you may think this post is biased. I assure you, it is not. Matter of fact, the reason I became a doula is because I myself didn’t have one for the birth of my daughter. It’s a decision that both my husband and I regret. My birth was as close as can be to what I’d laid out on my birthplan. Hire a midwife – check. No induction – check. No pain meds – check. Move all I want, no artificial rupture of membranes, labor in the tub, vaginal birth, wait for cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, delay baby procedures… check, check, check!
But it was still hard, lonely, painful and miserable. We had taken independent childbirth classes, read all the books, and thought we were prepared. We weren’t.
A doula would have come over to our house and help me realize that I was having incredible back pain, instead of thinking it was just part of labor. She wouldn’t have let me sit at the top of the stairs for hours, but would have encouraged and helped me to move around and get into positions that would help get my baby’s head off my back. She would have made sure I drank more water (dehydration can prolong labor), made me go to the bathroom more often (by the end I couldn’t empty my bladder and it was competing with my baby for prime real estate) and guided my husband as to how to best help me. She would have made sure I establish a rhythm and a ritual to get through each contraction and–in so doing–set up coping mechanisms that would get me through the car ride to the hospital, and all the constrictions of triage.
She would have done all this even before we were admitted to the hospital!
The medical system is not set up to help expectant mothers have the natural birth they desire.
Having my own personal birth fairy at the hospital would have been even more beneficial. It saddens and infuriates me that expectant moms don’t realize and aren’t told loud enough that the medical system is not really set up to help them have the natural birth they desire. This needs to be repeated: THE MEDICAL SYSTEM IS NOT SET UP TO HELP EXPECTANT MOTHERS HAVE THE NATURAL BIRTH THEY DESIRE. Most often than not, they are being set up for failure. And that is a horrible thing to do to anyone.
So what are expectant moms to do? Hire a doula.
A doula is the secret magical tool that can help even up the odds of having a natural birth in a hospital.
Consumer Reports recently came out with a list of “10 Things You Should do During Your Pregnancy”. Number 8 was “Get Labor Support” with the most effective labor support coming from “someone who is not a member of the hospital staff and is not in your social network”, i.e. a doula. Interestingly, of the other 9, most were things that moms will automatically get help with by having a doula: (2) make a plan and have a backup; (4) reduce the risk of an early delivery; (5) ask if a breech baby can be turned; (6) stay at home during early labor; (7) be patient; (9) listen to yourself; and (10) touch your newborn.
A doula will lessen the pregnant woman’s (and her partner’s) anxiety. She will make her feel safe and taken care of, allowing her to drift happily into labor land. This can in turn shorten her labor, make her birth a happier experience, allow her to bond better with her baby, have an easier recovery and feel better about herself so she can be a better parent to her child.
The system is messed up. Ideally, every pregnant woman should get to have an insurance-covered doula on her birth team. But until that changes, expecting moms need to take matters into their own hands and make ‘a doula’ the first item on their baby registry.