DONA International Certification Essay

The Purpose and Value of Labor Support I think of Sherpas that helped early settlers of American over...

The Purpose and Value of Labor Support

I think of Sherpas that helped early settlers of American over the Rocky Mountains or natives that guide people through the Amazon; most would never consider such an adventure without an experienced guide. In the same way, a birth doula is an experienced guide for the journey through birth.

The role of the birth doula is one of support, comfort and information. The benefit of labor support is to help make the birth experience a positive and memorable event for the mom, dad/partner and baby. A woman supported and encouraged during labor and delivery can go far beyond what she previously thought possible in endurance and managing pain. I have witnessed bonding and a strengthening of the relationship between birthing moms and their partners, through labor and birth. When a couple feels they are not alone in birth, they are free to grow and become parents, and a family, in a positive way.

The purpose in providing labor support is to help a couple navigate the journey of birth. The physical, emotional and informational needs of a birthing mom are where a doula makes a difference. For many people having a baby is the first time they will be cared for by a medical professional in a hospital. The experience can be overwhelming and riddled with fear. Having the support of birth doula who knows the birthing atmosphere and birth lingo makes a difference in how relaxed the mom feels about the experience. Of course not all births happen in hospitals; birth centers and home births are also places where a mom has a life changing experience and support will make a difference in how she remembers the birth and how well they relationally bond.

I meet with the birthing mom and her partner prior to the onset of labor. We discuss their wishes and goals for the birth of their baby. From there I attempt to help them achieve the best possible birth with their hopes in mind while being flexible to the journey.

Birth seldom is a text book experience and very often does not follow a plan. That is where the skills of a birth doula are especially helpful. Understanding, knowledge and experience in non medical ways to manage pain, helping a mom change positions to encourage her baby to turn and descend, relaxation techniques and a supportive presence during labor are invaluable.

If couples knew ahead of time of the intensity of labor and birth and if these same couples had the option of having a birth doula support them through this experience without the added cost of hiring a birth doula; I believe every birthing mom would want a birth doula by her side. By her side is the perfect place for a doula, not in front, taking charge, but by her side encouraging and helping her with kind words, a tender touch and watchful eye to anticipate where support will be needed next. As a birth doula my responsibility is first of all to be available whenever the mom needs me in labor and to stay with her through the birth of her baby. Secondly I have a responsibility to know and work within my Scope of Practice and to abide by the Code of Ethics for birth doulas.

Maintaining professionalism and high standards will ensure a favorable attitude from caregivers in hospitals, birth centers and home births towards birth doulas now and in the future.

Studies have shown that labor support provided by a birth doula improves the bond between mother and infant and decreases the incidence of postpartum depression. These same studies have shown a decrease in length of labor, request for pain medicine, epidurals, and instrumental deliveries, while also seeing an increase in breastfeeding rates, and satisfaction with the birth experience. Women supported by a doula, which would otherwise be alone, and in a setting where intervention rates are routinely high, have the most improved birth outcomes.

In the June 2008 publication of BIRTH the conclusions from a randomized controlled trial of continuous labor support for middle-class couples: Effect of cesarean delivery rates was published. The conclusions indicated the continuous presence of a doula during labor significantly decreased the likelihood of cesarean delivery and reduced the need for epidural analgesia. Women and their male partners were unequivocal in their positive opinions about laboring with the support of a doula.

Labor support is not new, but it has been devalued and almost disappeared in the past century. The resurgence of labor support is making a difference for people everywhere it is available.