May is International Doula Month. A doula is a professional who provides emotional, physical and informational support to families during the childbearing year. A doula can be a birth doula who supports the labor and birth, or a postpartum doula who supports the parent-baby dyad and other family members after the baby is born.
Research on the benefits of doulas consistently demonstrates more positive outcomes for both the birthing person and the baby, including fewer interventions. In fact, in February 2017, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a paper, Approaches to limit interventions during labor and birth, and called out doulas as an effective method of improving outcomes during birth. ACOG said, "Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor."
Lamaze International's Third Healthy Birth Practice is "Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support" and there is a great infographic "Who Says Three's a Crowd" to share with class members.
New York State's Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that in an effort to reduce maternal mortality, particularly among people of color, New York will be piloting a program to provide doulas to families receiving Medicaid.
Lamaze International has worked closely and alongside many doula organizations, in particular, DONA International. A few years ago, we held a joint conference with DONA International that had exceptional attendance and an outstanding program. Many LCCEs are also doulas and are members of DONA International.
We have covered International Doula Month before, highlighting the research, teaching ideas and the differences between doulas and childbirth educators.
With ACOG fully on board with a major committee opinion that speaks to doulas, childbirth educators need to be sure the topic is well addressed in their childbirth classes. Look for a new teaching idea on labor support at the end of the month in our regular Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators post.
If you are a childbirth educator or other maternal-infant health professional, consider reaching out to some doulas in your community and thanking them for supporting families unconditionally during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. They would appreciate it.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2017). Approaches to limit interventions during labor and birth. Committee opinion N 687. Obstet Gynecol, 129.
Bohren, M. A., Hofmeyr, G. J., Sakala, C., Fukuzawa, R. K., & Cuthbert, A. (2017). Continuous support for women during childbirth. The Cochrane Library.