Saturday, December 5, 2009

The evidence a birth support partner works

Lay-person support of the labouring woman and her partner has been demonstrated to lead to lower active labour times and decreased intervention rates – including Caesarean sections, use of drugs for speeding up labour and/or for pain relief, forceps and ventouse delivery. The use of a doula can also decrease post-partum depression rates and increase the success of breastfeeding for a prolonged period after birth. There is no research to suggest that the use of a doula is detrimental in any way, yet the presence of a doula is not routinely requested or made available to pregnant women. Many people do not even know what a doula does, although organisations such as Doula UK (, Doulas of North America ( and l'association Doulas de France (, are working hard to make the doula name commonplace within society.

But why does it work? This is a question that remains unanswered, although many theories have been proposed. Like all mammals, pregnant women labour better in a comfortable environment where they feel safe. The hospital environment is not generally amenable to such a feeling but the presence of a doula can help calm the atmosphere and small changes to the labour room (dimming the lights, moving the bed, minimising the number of people present) can make a huge difference. A doula will help the partner(s) to nurture, love and support the labouring woman and will be a constant presence in an environment where the medical staff may change shifts, take breaks and work in teams. Overall, the presence of a doula can bring calm and security to the newly-emerging family and it allows them to focus when faced with challenges and questions from caregivers.


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Lowe, A. and R. Zimmerman, The Doula Guide to Birth: Secrets Every Pregnant Women Should Know. 2009, New York: Bantam Books. 270.

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