The Role of a Doula
I had someone ask me today about the role of a doula, and how a doula helps women have shorter, easier labors. The answer can be found in the three part definition of a doula. A doula is someone who provides physical comfort, emotional support, and information to a woman during her labor and childbirth.
The physical comfort role of a doula comes through a variety of techniques. These include massage therapy, positions and techniques to help back labor, and different laboring positions that can help bring contraction relief.
The emotional support provided by a doula is conveyed through a loving touch, a caring look, verbal encouragement, and being non-judgmental listener.
The information role of a doula will come from her doula training, from experience gained at prior births, and through resources such as Penny Simkin’s book The Birth Partner.
Long Term Satisfaction With Labor
Penny Simkin did a study a number of years back that assessed what was most important for a woman to have a long-term satisfaction with her birth experience. She had questionnaires from women she had taught in childbirth education classes back in the 1970’s. Approximately 20 years later, Penny contacted these women to interview them about birth experience. She was looking to see what long-term impacts the birthing process had for them.
While you might think what leads to long term satisfaction is a short labor, or a relatively easy labor, but that was not the case. In fact, there was no correlation between length or pain of labor with long term satisfaction. She found that the most important things were a sense of being supported and cared for, positive memories (including shared laughter) with the caregivers, and a sense of having been in control.
The factors that lead to satisfaction long term dovetail with the three aspects of doula work described above. The sense of accomplishment comes from a doula providing emotional support. The sense of control comes from the doula providing the mother with information about her options and alternatives, and helping her to adhere to her birth plan if circumstances allow. The sense of having been cared for comes from the physical support and hands-on aspect of a doula’s role.
Becoming a Doula
If you would like to help women have a satisfying labor and birth experience, get started with massage doula training today. The Institute of Somatic Therapy offers training in prenatal massage and doula support. Click here to see the courses available in this massage specialty.
NOTE: Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net “Newborn” by arztsamui.