For a while now, supporters of natural birth as a movement have been quoting a particular study about doulas. The study suggests doulas have measurable impact on perceived pain in labor, over all satisfaction, length of labor, as well as use of epidurals, Pitocin, and cesarean birth.
We’re doulas. We absolutely believe we are capable of elevating your birth experience. We’ve seen first hand our ability to help our clients cope with discomfort and provide them with the agenda-less encouragement that super-charges their confidence. What we take pause over is the frequent suggestion that we can prevent certain practices and outcomes during your birth.
The thing about the study listed above is that it may not be completely solid, and also, it needs to be repeated many more times by unbiased parties with controls and in a fashion that, you know, measures up to scientific method. It’s safe to say doulas everywhere would love to see it improved upon and repeated to confirm what we’ve known for a long time.
The question is, though, do births attended by doulas actually involve less intervention? Some of us actually aren’t incredibly concerned with that, because it isn’t how we measure our worth as professionals. Something we are concerned with is misplaced expectations, and it seems this question would especially be served by more studies that not only take into account the presence of a doula, but other factors such as the preferences of the patient, overall trends for their birthing facility, and more.
Let me be clear: If you are planning an intervention-free birth, we completely support your decision and will honor this as we attune to your needs. Having an extra set of hands and knowledge is absolutely a bonus when you prefer to labor without an epidural or Pitocin. We also understand how daunting it can feel to strive for an outcome that may not be the norm where you live. Conversely, if you are saying to yourself, “What’s so bad about some pain relief? I know I want that epidural,” or, “I don’t think a Cesarean birth is the worst kind of birth I could have,” you should not write off having a professional doula support you in your experience.
See, the most important suggestion in that study, and perhaps the most valid, is that a doula can boost your overall satisfaction with your birth. We can do this no matter what kind of birth you wish to have. We cannot control the trajectory of your labor, the opinions of the medical professionals in the room, or how and if you choose to advocate for yourself. But we will affirm your thoughts and feelings, comfort you and help you problem solve when you are scared or discouraged, and celebrate your strength and perseverance with you. Life can be more challenging when we go it alone. Parents don’t have to go it alone in birth!