WHO Recommendations: A Doula’s Role
Birth is so much more than a change of address for baby. It affects mothers holistically and mothers deserve holistic care. The World Health Organization recently recognized this need through their Safe Childbirth Checklist. A doula’s role for every woman giving birth is part of their healthy practice recommendations. The research for doulas has concluded that continuous support provided during labor significantly improves birth outcomes for both mother and baby.
The benefits of having a doula present include:
- an increased apgar score for baby
- a decreased chance of the mother undergoing a c-section
- a decrease in the mother’s request for pain-relieving medication
- an increase in the mother’s satisfaction with her birth experience
With such powerful advantages associated with having a doula, it’s important to reveal the relationship between a doula and the expecting mother she serves.
As a doula, it is important for me to step into the shoes of the moms I work with. There are so many expectations for birth and a wide range of moms who have equally wide spectrums of needs and goals for their unique birth experiences. So much of what contributes to a great birth experience is the relationship between an expectant mom and her doula.
An important aspect to the relationship is the time the doula spends getting acquainted with the mom.
In order to become more informed and best able to serve expectant moms during labor, I meet with her at least 3 times before the birth. As pregnancy progresses, emails, texts, chats, and messages flow as questions arise. Each gives opportunity for learning about and understanding the expectant mother’s unique concerns, wishes, and support system. I especially enjoy getting to know her family.
One example that corresponds with having background knowledge about a mom is when I worked with an expectant mom and her family over several months before a birth. She was a mom of 3 expecting her 4th baby. It was so helpful for me to see how she interacted with her husband and her children. I learned more about my role as her doula. Her husband best supported her by providing encouragement but didn’t desire to provide physical support during her labor. This allowed me to know I would be providing this support during her labor. The more I met with her the more I felt connected to her desires for her birth experience. At her birth, I knew her likes and dislikes. I knew the spots she didn’t like to have massaged; I knew about past birth experiences that triggered strong emotions and how she could do things differently for this birth. I knew what scents she liked and which ones to avoid. If I had not had the opportunity to spend time developing a relationship with the expectant mom, I would have missed out on an incredible knowledge of how I could best serve her.
As a doula, there may be sensitive background knowledge that resurfaces during pregnancy and labor. Creating a safe environment where trust has been built is exactly what a laboring mom needs to lay aside or work through her past loss or trauma and run her best labor unencumbered. Loss, trauma, and concerns can include insecurities about becoming a parent, financial concerns, relationship issues etc. What matters is that the mom feels totally supported and safe during her unique journey.
A laboring mom needs the space to negotiate her options as well as information to make her own decisions for her birth. A doula is a valuable asset to a labor when she can give an expectant mom the ability and empowerment to own her birth experience. A doula is a resource for the mom who has questions about a procedure. A doula can help a mom to find out from her care provider what her options are – for example what the benefits or risks of a procedure are, whether a procedure can be delayed,or if there are other options. She can help the mom find evidenced based information approved by her care provider so the mom can choose what works best for her.
You may read a copy of The World Health Organization’s checklist here: