The word "doula" comes from the Greek word meaning "a woman who serves" or "handmaiden". A doula is a woman who is experienced in childbirth and provides continuous emotional and physical support to mothers during labour, birth and the early postpartum period. Non-medical support can reduce the risk of complications during labour and childbirth and increase a mother's satisfaction with her overall birth experience.
Doulas provide non-medical support to the mother and offer information and explanation of the events that may occur during labour. She encourages a mother to become informed about her various birth choices and facilitates communication between the labouring mother and her team. A doula encourages the use of comfort measures including relaxation, breathing, movement and position changes. She offers breastfeeding support in the early postpartum period and can provide the mother with additional resources available in the community.
When continuous labour support is provided by a doula, women experience a :
* decrease in the use of Pitocin * decrease in the risk of Cesarean section * increase in the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal birth * decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief * decrease in the risk of her newborn being admitted to a special care nursery * decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience
Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period. - DONA International