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When I first decided I'd like a doula to help me through labor and delivery, my friends, family and even my husband had questions. First and foremost: "What in the world is that?" The answer: A doula is a childbirth professional who's trained to help expectant moms like me through the birthing experience. A type of labor support coach, doulas provide emotional, physical and informational support during labor and delivery, answer questions throughout pregnancy, help expectant moms prepare their birth plan and communicate it to health care providers, and some even offer postpartum support. That all sounded good -- here's how I made the decision.
Why would I need a labor doula? As a first time mom, I find comfort in knowing someone who has been through it all before will be with me from start to finish -- unlike a doctor or midwife, or even nurses, who will be busy tending to other patients. I also believe a doula will help me feel more confident going through the process, which could be beneficial, considering that a recent study actually found that women who feared childbirth had longer labors than those that did not.
Does a doula mean you're having a natural childbirth? Maybe, but for me, not necessarily. While it's true that many moms-to-be enlist a doula to get through a natural childbirth, I honestly haven't decided whether I'll go for the epidural or not, and my doula supports that. I do know it's best to stay home as long as possible when laboring so you don't get to the hospital too early, which can lead to interventions. (No surprise, but I'd like to avoid unnecessary interventions and a c-section, if possible!) My doula will come to my home once labor starts and help me decide when it's best to go to the hospital. Once there, she'll help me understand how every intervention and decision will affect my labor and act as my advocate and information resource every step of the way.
Isn't that your husband's job? Doulas are also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to positions, breathing techniques, massage and other comfort measures that will (hopefully) make labor easier. Even if my husband learned all of these things in a childbirth class, the chance he'll remember every little thing when it comes down to it isn't that likely. Of course, he'll be by my side and will be be an important part of the process. In fact, my doula will be able to help him get involved by telling him the best things to do at every stage.
Is there any proof that doulas help?
Studies have shown that the support of a doula decreases the likelihood of a c-section by 50 percent, labor will be 25 percent shorter, requests for epidurals are reduced by 60 percent and the use of oxytocin decreases by 40 percent -- and frankly, those are numbers that I like to see.
iVillage Making a Mama blogger Julie Seguss loves all things health and fitness, and holds a personal trainer certification from the American Council on Exercise. She is expecting her first child, or second if you count her very spoiled French bulldog. Find more from Julie at Inhabitots and Momtourage.