Monday, May 17, 2010

Tactile and Emotional Support During Labor

This month's issue of the Charis Childbirth newsletter included great introductory information about the role of birth doulas. I've included an excerpt below, but there's more info at this link:

A doula is a layperson, most often a woman, who understands the biological and medical processes involved in labor and obstetrics, and who usually has assisted in at least five or six deliveries under the supervision of another doula. Her training also provides her with knowledge of obstetrical interventions, so that she can explain them to the woman and her partner in the event they are needed.

Doulas typically function as a part of the "birthing team," serving as an adjunct to the midwife or the hospital obstetrical staff. Physicians and labor and delivery nurses may appreciate the doula's sustained attention to the mother, especially in hospitals where demands on the staff interfere with exclusive contact with the mother. The doula also serves a critical role in supporting and educating the woman's partner, enabling him or her to be as involved and as effective as possible in supporting the mother.

In the United States, most doulas work as independent providers hired by the expectant woman. (In fact, many hold full-time jobs outside the realm of health care.) Increasingly, managed care organizations are offering doula support as part of regular obstetrical care. In some European institutions, doula support is offered as a standard of care by midwives or nursing students. In many cultures, of course, the practice of a knowledgeable woman helping a mother in labor is not labeled anything as official as "doula" support; it is simply an ingrained, centuries-old custom.

Overall, the defining characteristic of doula-type care is continuous, uninterrupted, emotional and physical support of the woman for the duration of the labor and childbirth.

No comments: