Why Do Doula Attended Births Have Better Outcomes?
Did you know that births with constant support from a doula tend to have better outcomes? A study published by Kenneth Gruber, Susan Cupito, and Christina Dobson (which you can find here) showed that mothers who were matched with a doula were four-times less likely to have a low birth weight baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding.
Another study published by Bohren et. al (linked here) shows even more amazing outcomes for doula-attended births. Women with continuous labor support in this study experienced increased spontaneous vaginal birth (less induced births), shorter duration of labor, and decreased cesarean births. They also were less likely to use instruments to aid in vaginal birth, any analgesia, their babies had higher 5-minute Apgar scores, and mothers reported less negative feelings about their childbirth experiences.
All of this is amazing, but it leaves us asking the question WHY?? We know by now that doulas are amazing, but they don't have superpowers, right? Well as it turns out, there are a lot of ways that doulas support families that allow for these better birth outcomes. Let's talk about some of them.
Doulas help you to make informed decisions.
When you hire a doula, you are hiring someone to help you to make informed decisions. Doulas don't make decisions for you, and doulas don't tell you what you should or shouldn't do. But it is our job to make sure you have access to real, evidence-based information, to know y0ur options, and to make decisions based on what is best for you and your family. Information is power, and knowing the reasons behind interventions used in birth as well as their benefits and risks can help you to have more knowledgeable conversations with your birth team about what you'd like to experience during your birth.
Having both knowledge and open communication with your health professionals can ensure that you have a safe birth experience without being persuaded to accept interventions that aren't necessary for you and your situation. If these interventions are necessary due to medical reasons, you are more informed about why you need them and how the benefits may outweigh the risks. Both of these things can help mothers have better birth outcomes and a better reflection on their birth experience.
Doulas support you to be heard, use your voice, and have an empowering birth experience.
By knowing about all of your options in pregnancy and birth, doulas can help you to be in charge of your birth. Many mothers don't realize they have as many choices as they do throughout their pregnancy, labor, and birth, and doulas can help you to not only discover your choices, but assert your rights as well. Many doulas describe themselves as advocates, but I believe a better way to describe what we do is teaching mothers to advocate for themselves. By being educated and informed about all of your options, their benefits and risks, you are able to become an empowered, active participant in your journey. This leads to you making decisions that you know are right for you, leading to better birth outcomes for you and your baby.
Doulas help ensure an environment that encourages labor progression.
Did you know that things like fear, bright lights, and adrenaline can all stall labor? On the surface, it may look like doulas encouraging you to switch up your position, set some mood lighting, and use massage or aromatherapy is some new-age birth philosophy, but there is a deep science behind everything your doula does.
Practicing comfort measures and creating a more relaxed environment encourages dilation and labor progress. If you decide that you'd like a natural physiological birth without interventions, a doula will make sure to keep your oxytocin flowing to keep your labor from being stalled. Adrenaline - often caused by fear - blocks the release of oxytocin and can keep your labor from progressing. Doulas will do many things to keep the environment calm and to keep you feeling relaxed and ready for birth.