A national survey of women’s childbirth experiences found that only 3% of births were attended by doulas. 3%?! In one way that does not surprise me. “What’s a doula?” and a confused look is the most common response I get when I tell people I am a doula. However, as someone who knows the benefits of using a doula, it makes me wonder how 97% of women are not taking advantage of a doula’s skill set.
“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” – John H. Kennell, MD
The effects of a doula’s continuous support in labor is not something to brush off. A collection of 22 trials that included over 15,000 women had encouraging results.
Women who had continuous support in labor were:
- less likely to have a cesarean section
- less likely to request pain management drugs
- less likely to require use of forceps or vacuum extraction during vaginal delivery
- less likely to describe their birth as a negative experience
- less likely to have a baby with a low APGAR score (newborn health assessment)
- found to have shorter labors
If you could take a pill in labor that would provide such positive effects, with no negative side effects, even if it cost you out of pocket, would you? I find it hard to believe many of us would turn it down. With this seeming so obvious, why are 97% of birthing women NOT using a doula?
The most common response I hear is “My (insert partner, family member, caregiver here) will be my doula”. The trials also showed that the effects were most beneficial when the continuous support was provided by someone who was not a member of the medical staff or the mothers close social/family network.
In addition to labor support a doula provides valuable birth planning and support during pregnancy. Doula support also includes postpartum and breastfeeding assistance. All of this support is non judgmental and free from outside opinion or criticism. Let’s be honest here, that alone is something you may be hard pressed to find in a partner, family member or friend.
Now are you joining me in madly wondering why only 3% of birthing women use doulas? It seems evident the benefits of doulas are worth their cost.
A woman’s birth experience is worth more than that shocking 3%. Let us move towards making doulas common place in America. Can you imagine how our birth culture would change?
(Want to learn more about what a doula does? Head to my What is a doula? page for more information)
(disclaimer: I understand that women are capable of good birthing experiences and outcomes without a doula. Also that many women have friends/ family members who support their choices without judgment. However this article is to show that chances of positive birth outcomes are increased with doula support.)
Report on women’s childbirth experiences: http://www.childbirthconnection.org/pdfs/LTMII_report.pdf
Clinical trial report: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17;10:CD003766. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23076901