Professional Labor Support
History, common wisdom, and research tell us that women who have continuous support in labor have a higher chance of giving birth vaginally, use less pain medication in labor, and are more likely to remember their births as positive experiences. These tips will help you build the right team to support you in labor so that you can have a satisfying birth.
Doulas: Professional Labor Support
Research says that having a doula (a trained labor support professional) as part of your labor support team provides the most benefits. But how do you find someone who is a good fit to be part of your labor support team? Here are some tips:
- If you have a friend who has used a doula, ask her to share her story and have her introduce you to her doula. Keep in mind that each woman and her birth are unique. While this doula may have been perfect for your friend, you must decide if this doula is a good match for you.
- Ask your midwife or doctor for recommendations. Some hospitals and birth centers provide doula services or referrals. Some providers regularly work with doulas. But remember that a doula works for you, not for your doctor or midwife. If you don’t click with the person your provider recommends, keep searching.
- Ask your childbirth educator for a referral. They have heard many birth stories and may know the local doulas who have helped other women, or may work as a doula too. By spending time together in your classes, you’ll get to know each other before your birth.
- Contact your local Birth Network if available, or attend a La Leche League meeting or a local moms group. You’ll meet women who have used doulas at their births and may meet doulas there, too.
- Check the Web sites of the organizations that certify and train doulas, such as DONA International. Most of these sites will let you search by location for a doula near you.
- Interview several doulas if possible before choosing one. When getting ready for your interview, think about what you want your doula to do for you. How will she fit in with the rest of your labor support team? Think about the ways you deal with challenges and how you like to be treated when you need support. What helps you to relax? Do you like lots of massage or do you prefer the distraction of a conversation? How does your partner want to support you? Does he or she want to participate in the physical support or just to be there emotionally for you? Ask the doula how she sees her role at your birth.
- If your insurance doesn’t cover doulas and you can’t afford the doula’s fees, look for a doula-in-training. She may not have as much experience with birth as someone who is certified, but she may attend your birth for little or no fee in order to earn her certification. Some communities have volunteer doula services for women in need. Some doulas will write a contract for women to pay over time or even trade for another service that you can offer to her.
Just as you have an inner wisdom that guides you in birth, you have this same intuitive knowledge that will tell you which doula should be with you when you give birth. Trust yourself!
Friends and Family: Another Source of Support
You may already have a “doula” among your family and friends. A doula is a woman experienced in birth who provides continuous emotional and physical support. Finding someone within your own circle of friends and family is often special because she already knows you and will continue to be a part of your family’s life. Here are some tips for building a support team from within your friends and family.
- Remember that women have helped each other in birth and afterward for thousands of years – long before there were organizations with training and certification programs. Family members and friends can be wonderful doulas. But, be sure to choose someone who shares your philosophy of birth, makes you feel confident and safe, and will follow your wishes at your birth.
- Don’t assume that a friend or family member with medical experience will offer the best labor support. Studies have shown that continuous support from people without medical training may actually provide more benefits than support from people who are nurses or doctors.
- Involve your labor support companion in your birth planning. Invite her to a prenatal appointment and your childbirth classes. Take a tour together of the place you will give birth. Do a “labor rehearsal” where you practice comfort measures. If you write a birth plan, share it with your labor support companions and make sure they have a chance to talk about it with you and ask questions.
- If there are several people providing you support (such as your husband or partner and a family member or friend) make sure that the members of your “team” communicate well with each other and that each person is clear about what his or her role will be. Building team communication will ensure that everyone – including you – can stay focused on your labor, instead of worrying about how to work together.
- Share your favorite books or Web sites about birth with your labor support team. Suggest some books that are especially for people who will support laboring women, such as “The Birth Partner,” “The Doula Book,” or “The Labor Progress Handbook.”
Books for Labor Support Companions:
- The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence (2010) by Judith Lothian & Charlotte DeVries
- The Birth Partner, Second Edition (2001) by Penny Simkin
- The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth (2002) by Marshall H. Klaus, John H. Kennell, & Phyllis H. Klaus
- The Labor Progress Handbook (2005) by Penny Simkin & Ruth S. Ancheta