Being pregnant can be hard work. Mothers-to-be welcome all the physical and emotional support they can get. Two years ago, Tracy Hanson implemented a doula program at Providence Medford Medical Center's BirthPlace. The response by new parents who have used this free service has been overwhelmingly favorable. "We have had 100 percent positive feedback from every momma who has ever had one of our doulas," says Hanson, a long-time veteran of the profession who has helped ease hundreds of newborns into the world.
A doula (from an ancient Greek word meaning 'woman's servant') is a trained professional experienced in childbirth. A doula provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support during the birthing process. She stays calm and objective and can empower the mother when making decisions about labor and delivery.
Hanson points out that a doula does not replace a mid-wife, physician or the father/partner. Instead, her role is to nurture. "The doula knows all the things that can comfort and soothe a momma in labor. She helps with relaxation and breathing techniques that can make the labor easier."
This often includes some welcome relief for the dad who may also be under a great deal of stress during the labor and delivery process. "The daddies are especially glad to have someone else there," Hanson explains, "and they tell me that it gives them the freedom to participate at a level they are comfortable with when the doula is there to fill in the rest."
Research reflects a measurable impact on the birthing experience. Hanson agrees. "Studies have shown that when using a doula, there is a significant reduction in labor time, interventions, Caesarean births and pain medications. If people are trying to decide where to birth their baby, we provide a great birthing experience at Providence and that includes providing a doula free of charge. There is so much research now about how our birth experience impacts our parenting. They now know that birth trauma is linked with postpartum depression and a cascade of other challenges, so it's important to provide the best experience possible."
Thrilled by its success, Hanson plans to expand the program. "I think the big picture is that the entire process of birth really impacts the whole family, so I would encourage them to understand how important the birth journey is to their lives and their baby's life."