With the rising popularity of homebirths and natural, non-medicated births on the rise, expectant moms are considering various ways to have the best possible experience welcoming their baby into the world. One way to do that is by hiring a birth doula, who will give you emotional support during labor, make you feel comfortable (she'll massage or position you), and act as your advocate with the medical staff. In the past 7 years, the percentage of women who use a doula during childbirth has effectively doubled (from 3 percent to 6 percent) according to a recent nationwide survey from Listening to Mothers. That's good news considering all the benefits there are to making a doula part of your birth plan.
Here, 11 good reasons to have a doula by your side in the delivery room ...
- You'll be less likely to have a c-section. Women who work with a doula are 40 percent less likely to have a caesarean section, according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health. That's huge, especially if your goal is to have a natural, non-medicated and/or vaginal birth.
- You'll have a speedier birth. Now and then, you'll hear about a woman whose labor was over lickety-split, and you think, "No way, how could that be for real?!" But it may have been thanks to a doula. Having continuous support from a doula meant women experienced shorter labors in a study published in the journal Nursing for Women's Health.
- Your baby will be in better shape. The same research also showed these moms were less likely to have a baby with a low five-minute Apgar score, an indication of a newborn's health (based on appearance, pulse, grimace/cry, activity and respiration) that ranges from zero to 10.
- You'll be more likely to steer clear of induction. Having to undergo induction can be the first domino to fall in a slew of interventions, which -- especially if you're set on a natural birth -- you might want to avoid. But with a doula, a woman is a whopping 31 percent less likely than a woman without a doula to have Pitocin (oxytocin) to induce labor, according to a recent meta-analysis published in The Cochrane Library, which looked at 21 randomized controlled studies involving more than 15,000 women.
- You'll also be less likely to use pain meds. Many women are told that they'll end up having pain management (including an epidural) whether they think they will ahead of time or not. But women who had doulas are 9 percent less likely to use any pain medication. Good to know if you're dead-set against 'em!
- You'll enjoy giving birth. Okay, so maybe you won't want a do-over ASAP, but you won't be left scowling over it, either. The Cochrane research also found women with a doula were 34 percent less likely to rate their childbirth experience negatively.
- You'll more likely stay far away from forceps. Admittedly, every birth is different, and interventions are unavoidable from time-to-time, but moms who work with doulas also have a 40 percent reduction in the need for forceps or assisted delivery, according to findings published in Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth by Kennell, Klaus, and Kennell (1993), a book the American Pregnancy Association considers recommended reading on doula care.
- Your partner will be a happier camper. So, they're not the ones giving birth, but dads-to-be do go through a range of emotions during childbirth. Thankfully, doulas are there to provide support not only for a mother, but for her partner, as well. As a result, they've been shown to put dads at ease, helping them to feel less anxiety and take fewer breaks away from the delivery room.
- You'll feel less pain. No, really! It may sound hard to believe, but women with a doula by their side were statistically more likely to feel less pain, researchers wrote in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
- The cost is not necessarily as jaw-dropping as you think. Whether we like it or not, the cost of childbirth is already high, so no one wants to have to incur another expense. Doula's fees in the U.S. vary from $300 to $1,800 (which typically includes two prenatal visits, continuous support throughout the entire labor, and one or two postpartum visits), but the good news is that some insurance companies and Medicaid are beginning to reimburse parents for doula services. Private foundations have also provided grants to cover the cost of doula care.
- You and your baby will be ready and prepared to go home quicker. If you're itching to get back to your cozy nest, you'll want to think seriously about hiring a doula. Babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries -- and they breastfeed more easily. Bonus.
Many moms-to-be find their doulas through word-of-mouth (nothing like a referral from a friend who had a satisfying birth experience!), but you can also find a certified one in your area by using the online doula locator on DONA International's website or the Find a Doula search engine.
Are you considering a doula? Why or why not?
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