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Thursday, March 9, 2023

These Are Five Advantages of Doula Support

Posted By: Advancing Care

Having a doula by your side throughout pregnancy can have a profound impact on your birth experience, and may even lead to shorter labor, fewer medical interventions and better overall health outcomes for you and your child, according to a WMCHealth women’s health expert.

“Doulas can be particularly empowering for Black women, who are nearly three times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth,” explains Ashanda Saint Jean, MD, Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for WMCHealth’s HealthAlliance Hospital.

If you or a loved one are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you might be curious about doulas and the services they perform. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about doula care.

pregnant woman

What is a doula and what services do they provide?

Doulas are trained nonmedical professionals who provide physical and emotional support during pregnancy, labor and the immediate postpartum period. In addition to offering physical comfort and emotional encouragement, doulas provide a wealth of information and can help you and your partner better understand what’s happening during labor, facilitate communication between you and your medical team and advocate on your behalf in the delivery room.

“Doulas can be instrumental when crafting a birth plan and will work to ensure your wishes and needs are being met during labor,” says Dr. Saint Jean.

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?

Much like a doctor, a midwife is a healthcare professional authorized to provide medical care during labor, as well as the prenatal and postpartum periods. They are licensed caregivers who perform a number of medical procedures, including prenatal tests, internal examinations and other clinical tasks.

In contrast, doulas are nonmedical professionals who specialize in providing emotional, physical and informational support to pregnant people and their partners.

Dr. Ashanda Saint Jean
Dr. Ashanda Saint Jean, Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for HealthAlliance Hospital.

What are the advantages of doula care?

Although research on the subject is somewhat limited, several studies show that doulas can have a positive impact in the delivery room and beyond. Doula-assisted pregnant people often experience:

  1. A lower rate of Cesarean sections (C-sections) and other medical interventions
  2. A decreased use of pain relief medication during labor
  3. A decreased chance of delivering a low birth weight baby
  4. Shorter labor
  5. Doulas also play an integral role in the postpartum period — one study of Latina mothers found that those supported by doulas were more likely to have success breastfeeding their newborns and to delay first infant formula feeds.

Are doulas only for first-time parents?

Contrary to popular belief, doulas aren’t just for first-time parents.

“Each pregnancy and childbirth is unique, and doulas can provide support during all stages of the process,” says Dr. Saint Jean. “This is true whether you’re having your first child or your fourth or if you’re opting for a natural, unmedicated birth or a planned C-section.”

If you are considering hiring a doula, it’s important to research your options and find a professional whose philosophies and practices align with yours and your family’s. For more information about maternal health and/or prenatal care, schedule an appointment with Advanced OB/GYN Associates at Westchester Medical Center.