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July 2019

The Benefits of having Doula support

Doula support during labour and birth

The role of a Doulas is so important to a woman’s birth experience. A Doula is there to provide physical, emotional and informational support during labour and birth. Their role isn’t medical its a supportive role. To mother the Mother.

There are many benefits to a woman by having a Birth Doula. Lots of studies have taken place to look at the benefits and differences it can make to a woman’s birth.

The Doula Book written by Marshall H. Klaus, Phyllis H. Klaus & John H. Kennell is a fantastic insight into the importance of Doula support. The stats highlighted below reinforce this.

Having Doula support can shorten labour by 25%

A study took place at Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston, Texas showed that out of 416 women those 212 with Doula support had an labour length averaging 7.4 hours compared to 204 without Doula support lasting 9.4 hours. ⠀

Out of this same group those 212 supported by a Doula 55% gave birth naturally with no intervention or pain relief compared to only 12% in the non-doula supported group. A significant difference.*

Caesareans reduced by 45%

The Cleveland Couples Study found that out of 555 couples those in the Doula supported group had a caesarean rate of 14.2% compared to 22.5% for those labouring alone. ⠀

42 of these 555 couples were being induced for various reasons. Out of this group 20 were supported by a Doula & 20% (4) of these women had a caesarean compared with 22 who had no Doula support & 63.6% (14) had a caesarean. This is 3 times more for the non-Doula supported group.⠀

Strong evidence to suggest the significance of having a Doula supporting an induced labour to lower caesarean rates.*⠀

Pain medication reduced by 30%

Studies found that continuous labour support from a Doula reduced the odds of receiving pain relief by 30%.⠀

The reason for this is believed to be due to a Doula giving sole emotional, psychological & non-medical physical support. Of course this can’t be expected of midwifes as they have other duties & women to attend to therefore on some occasions maybe needing to leave a labouring woman.⠀

This study is also supported by a clinical observation of Dr. Kieran O’Driscoll who noted that if a midwife providing continuous emotional & physical support leaves for just 5 minutes upon return it takes nearly an hour to get a mother back to her earlier calm state.*

Synthetic oxytocin use reduced by 40%

Oxytocin is the hormone the birthing body produces. It’s needed for the uterus to contract during labour. Oxytocin is a hormone that needs to be respected, to be unobserved, in a dimly lit space. It’s also known as the love hormone as its what we produce when we have sex, kiss, cuddle.⠀

This hormone has been recreated in order to assist women during labour or for use as part of an induction. Often known as Syntocinon.⠀

It can be of valuable assistance during labour especially if labour has been long, a woman is tired & needs some assistance but it can also cause surges to become more forceful & painful. So mother’s who may have been managing labour well often find they then need an epidural or another form of pain relief to manage the sensations once syntocinon is administered.⠀

Studies found that women supported by a Doula affected the need for syntocinon.⠀

Study one found that 2% of Doula supported women needed syntocinon compared to 13% in the non-Doula group. ⠀

The Houston study found that out of 416 women 17% of Doula supported women needed syntocinon compared to 44% in the non-Doula group.*⠀

Forceps usage reduced by 34%

As a hypnobirthing teacher forceps are often a stress factor I find for expectant Mums that I teach. Something they’ve heard stories about. Not wanting to have them or the worry of what forceps can do to their baby. ⠀

The Houston Study found that out of 416 women those in the Doula group 8% had forceps used during labour compared to 26% in the non-Doula group. Isn’t that a significant reduction!⠀

This goes hand in hand with the reduction of epidurals used when a Doula is supporting birth as forceps are often used when anesthesia has been used.*

Increased number of breastfeeding mums

Studies found a significance difference in those woman who had a Doula with feeding behaviour at 6 weeks postpartum.⠀

For 63% of women from the no Doula group experienced feeding problems compared to 16% in the Doula group. ⠀

51% of the Doula group women were exclusively breastfeeding & 81% of those Mums feeding on demand compared to 29% of the no Doula group exclusively breastfeeding & 47% of those demand feeding.⠀

These results are significant. Could it be that women having Doula support reduces the anxiety of the mother during and after labour?*

Reduced anxiety in mothers

A study was undertaken where Doulas supporting first time Mums were asked to remain with the labouring women. Using touch and verbal communication focusing on 3 primary factors comfort, reassurance and praise. ⠀

This showed favourably the benefit of the Doula being present at birth for the psychological & emotional outcomes after birth. ⠀

Doula supported mothers showed a significant reduction in anxiety, self-esteem & depression. ⠀

28% of the Doula supported group showed signs of anxiety post birth compared to 40% of those in the no Doula group.⠀

A woman’s mental health after birth is so very important after birth. So for me this is a very significant stat as we often focus so much on birth & forget the mental state of mind after birth.*

Fewer signs of postnatal depression

Postnatal depression (PND) is not a to be taken lightly & it’s also so important that the signs are recognised & not confused with post traumatic stress or a more recent conversation peace around matrescence.
The Birth of a Mother having also born a new identity as a Mother can be as demanding as giving birth to a baby.

Becoming a mother is an identity shift. One of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience.⠀

When this new identity is born it can affect a woman through PND which needs to be correctly diagnosed.⠀

Studies found that at 6 weeks 10% of women who had been supported by a doula developed PND compared to 23% of those in the no-Doula group. A significant difference. ⠀

If fewer mothers develop PND when supported by a Doula the benefits are great for the mother, baby, family members. Women need to feel safe & cared for pre and post natally.*

Reduced health issues with newborns

The findings from a study where Doulas were present at birth are astounding for the health issues of newborns at 6 weeks.⠀

Those women who had a Doula found that only 4% of their newborns were suffering from vomiting compared to the non-Doula group at 28%.⠀

39% of those supported by a Doula indicated their newborn had suffered from a cold or runny nose compared to 69% in the non-Doula group.⠀

Poor appetite from the infant was reported by 25% of the non-Doula group compared to 0% in the Doula group.⠀

Pretty incredible stats for the two groups where the hospital admission were no different & no reasons at birth to expect such differences in the infants. ⠀

Perhaps it could be argued that the presence of a Doula reduces a Mother’s anxiety sufficiently & boosts her self-esteem that she considers her baby healthier?*

*The Doula Book – Klaus, Kennell & Klaus

I’m sure you’d agree these are pretty impressive stats. Imagine if all women had access to a Doula? That it became the norm? So if you’re contemplating having a Doula I hope these stats reinforce the benefits.

‘If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it’ – Dr. John H. Kennell

Interested in having a Birth Doula or just want to know more?

As a Birth Doula I cover most areas I can get to within an hour from Twickenham including Ascot, Barnes, Chelsea, Clapham, Cobham, Esher, Fulham, Guildford, Isleworth, Kingston, Putney, Richmond, St Margarets, Staines, Surbiton, Sunningdale, Teddington, Twickenham, Virginia Water, Wandsworth, Weybridge and Windsor.

I offer my Doula services on their own or coupled with my hypnobirthing courses.

To find out more about having a doula, learning about hypnobirthing or to book your hypnobirthing course get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.

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Ali x

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