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4:23 min| 132,941 views
Learn how a labor coach can help you during labor. A doula does not deliver your baby. She's there to give you and your partner personalized support.
Prepare for labor and delivery with our online birth class. See all 51 videos in this series.
Linda Murray: A doula is a labor coach, someone who provides you with ultra-personalized, one-on-one attention and support throughout labor. A doula isn't the person responsible for the healthy delivery of your baby. That's the job of your doctor or midwife. Some doctors and midwives have the time to simultaneously act as a labor coach, but not all do, especially doctors. It can cost several hundred to a thousand dollars to hire a doula, and few health-insurance companies cover their services, but many women find the support of a doula invaluable. A doula may act as your main support person, tag-team with your partner, or just guide your partner on how to help you. She can suggest different positions for you to try, boost your confidence, provide massage, suggest nonmedical strategies to try if labor slows down, and explain what's going on. She can also help you before labor by answering your questions, easing your fears, and preparing you for your baby's arrival. A doula can assist you anywhere, in the hospital, at a birth center, or at home. Research suggests that doulas help women get through labor more quickly, with fewer negative outcomes, and that women who use a doula are more satisfied with their labor experience.
Mom 1: I had a doula, and that helped a lot because she was able to remember all of these things and actually help me and my husband through them.
Mom 2: In retrospect, I felt like it would have been a good idea, had I had a neutral third party there, like a doula, somebody to sort of, you know, represent me in a more calm light.
Monnie Reba Efross: Doulas really have a unique role in birth. The doctor's there to monitor you in terms of the medical parts, you and the baby, and to take care of any complications or emergencies. But really, what women need in labor more than anything is somebody to just be there for them, not to be monitoring their blood pressure, not to be looking at the baby's heartbeat, but just focusing on the women herself and how she's doing with her labor. And even if your partner's there, especially first-time moms, you may be in labor for 12 hours, 24 hours, sometimes even longer. Even if you have the best partner on the planet, he needs a little break sometimes, or maybe he's never been to a birth and he needs some support for this as well, even though it's not his body going through it. So doulas, what their focus is, is very much on the woman and also the support person. Doulas are there to do everything from as simple as just getting you some water and wiping your brow, to working with you on breathing and massage and different positions and helping support your partner to support you or anyone else who might be in the room. She's really taking care of people in the human way, and as well, research studies have shown that when women have doulas at their birth that they often have less complications, have less need for pain medication, and sometimes even shorter labors. So there's a real strong basis for doula care being what's needed.
Linda Murray: If you choose a caregiver who can't fully devote her time to you during labor, you'll want someone else's help. Women who have continuous support are more likely to report being satisfied with their birth experience, possibly because they produce fewer stress hormones during labor. So think about whether a loved one can be there to focus solely on you, to hold your hand, to help you manage your pain, to reassure you, to encourage you and cheer you on. Your partner will likely be by your side, and you may want your mother, a sister, or a close friend to join you, but make sure your partner is okay with more guests. Find out whether your hospital or birth center limits the number of people you can invite or has other policies that could affect your plans. And if you don't have someone to count on, ask your hospital or caregiver if there are volunteers who can provide support during labor. And don't forget to consider who you don't want in the room with you. If you want this to be a private experience with your partner, you can ask the hospital staff to keep relatives and medical students out of your room.