Birthing and Relaxation: Not Mutually Exclusive

IMAGE Gone is the stark delivery room and administration of heavy duty anesthetics. Parents now have more choices than ever as to the environment into which their babies will be born. With the growing openness of medical staff to complementary and alternative therapies, now often called integrative medicine, moms-to-be are investigating and choosing new options for delivering their babies. As a result, parents now have more birthing choices than ever before.

Giving Moms a Helping Hand

A doula, or birth assistant, is a professional woman, or at times a man, hired privately by parents to attend their child's birth. A doula serves the role as support and coach for the laboring woman. The doula does not replace the role of partner, and, very importantly, is not a member of the health care team. A doula is present solely to attend to the laboring mom. Usually trained and experienced in childbirth, doulas can serve as a stand-in when dad is not available. But doulas can be an asset for any mother. Many parents hire doulas even if dad is present.Since doctors may not have worked with a birth assistant before, most doulas accompany moms to a prenatal visit in order to meet the doctor before the big day. Once the medical staff knows the doula is there for support and not to replace or interfere with them, they are likely to welcome this additional member of the team.Doulas can be available weeks in advance to help an anxious mother before delivery by answering questions. They can also be helpful after the mother and infant come home. They help new mothers with feeding, recovery, and newborn care. A postpartum doula helps with the transition a family faces with a new baby in the home.

Studies Support Doulas' Role

Studies show that doulas have positive medical effects on both mother and baby. A study published in the British Medical Journal suggested that doulas result in fewer cesareans and shorter labors for mothers, and a lower admission rate to neonatal intensive care for infants. A review found that continuous support by a doula reduces anxiety, shortens labor, decreases the need for cesarean deliveries and other forms of assisted birth, and reduces rates of postpartum depression.

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