LABOR SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS: DOULAS, LABOR COMPANIONS, MONITRICES AND BIRTH ASSISTANTS
What is a Doula?
A Doula (pronounced “Doo-lah”) is a companion to a woman during labor and birth providing emotional support, physical comfort, education and advocacy.There are many names for these special women: “Doula”, “Childbirth Assistant”,”Labor Assistant”, “Labor Companion”, “Birth Partner”, “Birth Sister” or “Monitrice”. By any name, she is invaluable to the birthing woman.The Labor
Assistant/Doula works collaboratively with the woman’s birth partner and her medical team to help her reach her birthing goals. The Doula’s presence helps to make childbirth the beautiful experience it is supposed to be. Don’t give birth without one of these special women by your side!
In all cultures, from the dawn of time to the present, women have been assisted by other women during childbirth. “Doula” is a word derived from Greek which means “woman servant” or one who serves laboring women.
Birth art and artifacts from around the world depict the laboring mother supported in an upright position (standing, hanging, kneeling or squatting) with a helper behind her and a woman at her feet. This points towards a human way of birth, and has been called “the classic pose.”
The person at the woman’s feet was The Midwife, who caught the baby as s/he emerged from his/her mother’s body.
The person standing behind or beside the mother was the midwife’s and the mother’s helper–an auntie, a sister, a grandmother, or a neighbor. She is now known as “The Doula”; a professional labor companion who serves women during labor and birth, providing physical comfort, emotional support and advocates for the woman’s needs to the hospital staff.
What Are the Differences between Doulas and Midwives?
The Midwife is responsible for the safety of mother and infant. She has extensive training and provides prenatal care, labor and delivery management, and postpartum care as well as family planning services after the birth. She may also offer some labor support, but her primary role is to ensure the safe passage of
woman and baby. A midwife is a primary care practitioner, like a Physician’s Assistant, or Nurse-Practitioner, who is qualified to provide care in collaboration with a consulting physician.
The Doula, on the other hand, provides emotional support, physical comfort and may advocate on behalf of her clients, but she does not make medical decisions or provide physical assessment of mother and fetus such as fetal heart-rate monitoring, assessing cervical dilation.
The Monitrice (a term coined by the French obstetrician Frederic LeBoyer), is an advanced childbirth assistant who offers Enhanced Labor Support, including emotional support, physical comfort and client advocacy just as a doula does, but the Monitrice offers extra skills and services including fetal heartrate monitoring, assessment of mother’s vital signs and monitors labor progress by checking cervical dilation. This allows the mother remain at home longer, thus avoiding unecessary medical interventions which often occur when women go to the hospital too soon in labor. The Monitrice also provides in-home postpartum follow up, checking the mother and baby and helping with breastfeeding. These services are provided by an advanced labor assistant who is a Licensed Midwife, Nurse-Midwife, or Registered Nurse with labor and delivery experience and basic doula training.
Results of Labor Support
Several studies have shown that women who are attended by Doulas have:
* Shorter Labors
* Less Pain Medication
* Fewer Medical Procedures
* Decreased Rates of Cesearean Sections
* Decreased Augmentation of Labor with Oxytocin
* Increased Satisfaction with their Birth Experience
* Better Infant-Mother Interaction
* Increased Breastfeeding Success
* Decreased Postpartum Depression
* From the studies by Kennell and Klaus
- International Birth and Wellness Project
- Doula Association of Southern California
- Doulas of North America
For answers to your childbirth related questions, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.