Giving birth will be one of the most memorable events of your life. It may be hard to imagine how you will respond to the powerful physical and emotional aspects of labor, but you are bound to be more comfortable if you are surrounded by a team you trust before, during and after your birth. Your Lamaze classes and Lamaze educator will be able to help you plan and build your team.
The word doula means woman caregiver in Greek, referring to the female who attended to the lady of the house during childbirth. Historically, doulas were aunts, sisters, cousins or friends who helped cook, clean and offer support.
Today doulas perform similar services. There are more than 5,000 professionally trained doulas in the U.S., available to any woman who wants continuous non-medical support during childbirth. Studies show the presence of a doula at a birth results in shorter labors with fewer complications and interventions. Research shows women supported by doulas request pain medication less often, and report greater satisfaction with the birth and their partner’s participation.
Doulas provide a variety of services, depending on your preferences. You won’t need to meet with your doula until your third trimester, but it’s best to start interviewing doulas early, so your first choice can accommodate you. Once labor begins, doulas can help in many ways, including reminding you to work with your body to help labor progress. Having someone by your side to answer questions and let you know you’re doing well can help you to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A doula can help communicate your preferences to other members of your support team, allowing you to relax and focus so childbirth is more satisfying.
While a doula can provide incredible support, your partner is still your most vital source of emotional comfort. Your partner knows the subtle signals that express your needs, as well as your preferences for touch, music, scents and tastes. Most important, your partner is likely to be the lighthouse you focus on during contractions. Your partner may participate in your birth in a variety of ways, but that love and presence are irreplaceable. Discuss your partner’s role now, what you think you’ll need during this time and who can help you get it.
The Rest of the Team
If you choose to have a midwife, she will pay attention to the physical condition of you and your baby and guide you through labor and birth. In a hospital, doctors and nurses will monitor your progress and attend to your physical needs, but because they have other patients, they usually are unable to provide continuous support. Consider inviting family or friends who can stay with you throughout labor and birth. Some women don’t want anyone other than their partner present; others feel more comfortable with greater support. As you learn more, choose the birth team that will help you feel most confident on the big day.
Lamaze International promotes a natural, healthy, safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting practices. For more information, visit www.lamaze.org.