Doula: What's a doula's role during childbirth?

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Doula: What's a doula's role during childbirth?

Question

What role does a doula play during childbirth?

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Answer

A doula, or a professional labor assistant, provides physical and emotional support to a woman and her partner during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.

For instance, a doula may offer:

  • Suggestions on pain relief techniques, such as breathing, labor positioning and massage
  • Emotional reassurance, comfort and encouragement
  • Information about what's happening during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period
  • Assistance with breast-feeding
  • Guidance and support for loved ones

Often, however, a doula's most important role is to provide continuous support during labor and delivery. Although research is limited, studies have shown that continuous support from doulas during childbirth may be associated with:

  • A decreased use of pain relief medication during labor
  • A decreased incidence of C-sections
  • A less difficult childbirth experience

Keep in mind that a doula doesn't provide medical advice or replace the role of your health care team. A doula, however, may add another opinion to the mix when decisions need to be made regarding the management of your labor. In addition, most insurance plans don't cover doula fees.

If you're interested in hiring a doula, ask your health care provider, childbirth instructor, family or friends for recommendations. When interviewing a potential doula, be sure to ask about his or her training, how many births he or she has attended, his or her philosophy about childbirth and what services he or she provides. Also discuss your preferences and concerns about pregnancy, labor and delivery.

Last Updated: 2010-11-18
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