By now, many people know and understand the way birth doulas support mothers in labor and how this support creates healthier births. While the research backs it up, it’s kind of just plain old common sense. Women need support on the biggest day of their life, performing the greatest physical and emotional feat they will ever accomplish – of course!
But what about doctors and midwives? For their patients that employ the service of birth doulas, what benefit is a doula to the care provider? It’s a sad reality that many people – physicians included – think of doulas and care providers as being opposing forces, always trying to “win” on the side of what they feel is best for the patient/client. A professional birth doula will do no such thing.
In fact, a well trained, professional, career doula will make every effort to be of service and support to the client while being a valuable member of the birth team. Professional doulas recognize and respect that they are working within a limited, yet extremely valuable scope of practice. Fully embracing that role, they can be of benefit to care providers in many ways.
A primary priority for birth doulas is making sure that their clients have all the information to make a fully informed decision. The care provider can rest assured that their patient is discussing at length the risks, benefits, and alternatives to their options. Patients are not alone in their rooms consorting with Google, but with someone who is knowledgeable. Furthermore, the birth doula is not emotionally or financially attached to the birth so the information they give is unbiased toward any particular path. Providers are busy in hospitals caring for several patients at a time and they don’t always have the time to have great, lengthy discussions with their patients. A doula’s job is to stay with the client through the whole birth. She is committed to being there anyway and she can take all the time needed for an informed decision to be made that satisfies the family.
Once a birth doula has spent time discussing options, she can help facilitate open communication between the provider and the laboring mother. Since she has a client relationship with the mother, the doula can make sure that the mother is fully understanding what the doctor is saying. Doulas do not speak on behalf of their clients. Rather, the doula’s priority is to facilitate an open conversation where fully informed consent can be made and this limits a provider’s liability if complications arise.
Research shows that women who hire birth doulas are much more likely to rate their birth with a high level of satisfaction, regardless of how the birth played out (http://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/). Patients are more satisfied with their natural birth, their induction, and their cesarean. Satisfaction with the overall birth experience naturally translates into higher satisfaction with the provider. This increases the likelihood that this patient will return to this provider and that they will recommend them to others.
Doctors and midwives can also rest assured that the patient is being monitored with trained eyes. For instance, if a woman spontaneously begins pushing, a doula can recognize that and notify the staff. A professional doula knows that her scope of practice does not include any clinical skills, including catching the baby. She can sometimes be the first line of defense in ensuring that everything happens as it should ensure a healthy birth.
Evidence also shows that births with doulas have lower intervention rates. This benefits the physician because it means lower complications associated with interventions. Patient satisfaction further increases and makes the birth with a doula more likely (but of course not guaranteed) to be straightforward and uncomplicated. These tend to be simpler births for physicians.
Doulas work primarily for women in labor. However, their unique expertise in the labor room is beneficial to all of the birth team, including the primary care provider. A doula is an advocate, a source of information, and a benefit to all involved in the birth.