The Evidence on Doulas

Evidence Based Birth – Doula

Why this podcast?
The Evidence Based Birth website is a go-to website for me and many other doulas.

It’s somewhere I know I can get an overview of the scientific research and that it’s a great resource to direct clients to as well.

The fact that there is also a podcast is a huge bonus and just makes all this info even more accessible.

The episode
This episode is part of the EBB series on pain relief methods and is a great one to listen to if you are considering working with a doula (which of course, I encourage you to do).

Rebecca states that there are four main ways that a doula can provide pain relief during labour and birth. These are –

– Physical support

– Emotional support

– Information &

– Advocacy

Right, let’s look at each of those a little more closely.

Physical support
Doulas can provide physical support through soothing touch and massage.

They will work with you and your partner to ensure you are as comfortable as you can be. They will assist you with movement and various labour and birth positions.

Counter pressure on your lower back or a good hip squeeze during a surge can provide a huge amount of relief.

They will also ensure that both you and your partner are having enough to eat and drink and their presence means that your partner can take a break or grab a much-needed nap.

They’ll tie your hair back, pass you your water bottle after each surge and apply your lip balm.

If you feel hot they’ll fan you or bring you a cold cloth.

If you’re nauseous they’ll hold the sick bag for you (and know where to find them!)

They can put on music, close the window, open the window, put warm socks on your cold feet.

A doula is there to do whatever they can to make you and your partner as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

Emotional support
Your doula will encourage you and remind you that you are safe and supported.

They will also work with your birth-partner to help them better support you and ensure that they feel calm and relaxed too.

Research shows that when people feel capable, confident and cared for they feel less pain during labour.

Pretty amazing, right?!

A doula will also work with you both before and during labour on viewing labour sensations as positive rather than negative.

They will remind you that your surges are powerful, intense and productive and will encourage you to work with them rather than fighting against them.

When people view their surges in this way they experience them as less painful.

A researcher in Sweden who is an expert on Oxytocin (the hormone necessary for surges) writes –

”Doulas facilitate Oxytocin release which decreases your stress, decreases fear or anxiety and increases the effectiveness of your contractions.”

Your doula will help both you and your partner prepare for labour, birth and the early postpartum by supporting you with information, education and resources.

They will encourage you to talk through your fears and suggest techniques to use to let go of those fears.

Research has found that both childbirth classes and doula support lower the perception of pain in labour.

The role of a doula is not to advise or tell you what to do but to offer you information and resources so that you can make informed decisions.

As Childbirth International states, a doula’s role is to open a door for their client but not to push them through it.

I love that Rebecca states that doulas do not generally speak on their client’s behalf but encourage the birthing person or their partner to ask questions and speak out about what they do and don’t want.

This, in turn, can help relieve pain.

For instance, if the birthing parent finds that by being upright and moving they are better able to cope with their surges, it is important that they (or their partner) can speak up if asked to labour on the bed instead.

Again, the doula should not take the birthing person’s voice away or choose for them so instead of saying ”No, she wants to stay upright” a doula should simply ask ”How do you feel about that?” or ”What do you prefer?”

A Cochrane review shows that people who had one-on-one, continuous support during labour experienced – 

– A decreased risk of needing a Cesarean

– An increased chance of a spontaneous, vaginal birth

– A decreased risk of being dissatisfied with their birth experience

– A decrease in the use of pain medication

– Shorter labours &

– A decreased risk of the baby having a low APGAR score

To wrap up
Rebecca includes more information than I have covered here on how a doula can provide pain relief during labour so please check out this episode for yourself.

Involving a doula in your pregnancy and birth can provide so much more than just pain relief so, if you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me.

Until next time!

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By emilywills

Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.

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