Benefits of a Birth Doula
Modern day doulas have modified this age-old concept and integrated their unique, non-medical services into many healthcare settings to enhance childbirth services for expectant mothers and their families.
“We provide a woman and her partner with ongoing comfort, encouragement and respect,” says Rean Cross, Doula and Executive Director of the Doula Program at The Scarborough Hospital. “Family support is certainly important, but a third-party person with extensive knowledge and experience in the birthing process can improve the overall satisfaction families have with their childbirth experience.”
Stefanie Atunes, Doula and Chief Operating Officer of Discover Birth Inc., which has partnered with TSH to offer doula services, adds that a doula acts as a bridge between the medical aspect of childbirth and the emotional journey that families experience as they transition into parenthood.
Rean and Stefanie share some benefits of including a doula in your childbirth experience:
1. Doulas are present throughout the entire process. When a woman goes into labour, her family contacts the doula on-call who provides 24/7 support from beginning to end. There are 18 doulas currently enrolled in the program at TSH, and they work on-call rather than in shifts so they are able to remain with the family for the duration of the birth.
2. Doulas provide support to both woman and partner. There is a misconception that doulas should only be involved in the birthing process if a woman has no other supports. In reality, doulas can help a woman’s partner be more effective in their support strategies, which leads to a better experience for everyone.
3. Doulas are experienced childbirth professionals. Historically women gave birth with the help of an extended family member such as a grandmother, mother or older sister who gained experience by being involved in many births throughout their lives. In modern times, people don’t witness many births, and so doulas provide that same level of comfort and a reassuring presence to guide the mother through her labour and delivery.
4. Doulas provide care that helps to reduce complications. The non-medical care provided by doulas includes relaxation, positioning and other techniques to focus on the health and well-being of the mother, which allows the medical team to better administer clinical care and safely deliver the baby. This interprofessional team approach can lead to reduced complications, cesareans and interventions.
5. Doulas continue to provide care after the baby is born. Families who need or want comfort measures after the baby is born benefit from the expertise of a doula who can answer questions such as how to manage visitors, or help the family to understand and appreciate the amazing event they just experienced. They also offer breastfeeding and diaper changing tips. The additional care following a birth has been shown to decrease the incidence of post-partum depression.
6. Doulas are available last minute. There is always a doula on-call at TSH. Generally, doulas become involved in the birth process in the last trimester, but if a woman arrives at the Emergency Department in labour and asks for a doula, the nurses can refer to the on-call schedule and arrange for a doula to attend the birth.
7. Doulas at TSH are affordable. Cost to include a doula in your birth at TSH is determined on a sliding scale, based on your ability to pay. This is to ensure that everyone in our community has an equal opportunity to access this remarkable service.
Stefanie and Rean add that doulas will be volunteering their services and assisting with births at TSH throughout the month of May to recognize International Doula Month. Staff, physicians and the community are welcome to visit the hospital and learn more about the role of doulas in the childbirth process and how they can benefit from a doula’s unique expertise.