Labor support has been marginalized in our culture in the last 100 years. Although the current medical model leaves little room for caretakers who are advocates for their clients—the birthing mamas—a new day has come where many hospitals are now welcoming a fleet of skilled and well-trained birth professionals called doulas. “Doula” is a Greek term for slave, which was appropriated to describe the women who lent themselves to serve birthing mothers. I use the term “birth coach,” since most people understand what that means.
I think every mama-to-be should explore the option of having a birth coach as part of her birth team. A labor support coach, or doula, is a woman who “mothers the mother.” She offers continuous support for the laboring mother. After attending so many births, these coaches develop deep wisdom, comfort, and encouragement to offer. Birth coaches help liaise between the doctors, nurses, and the laboring mother’s partner during the process. They serve as educators, advocates, and cheerleaders, while keeping the family calm, connected and grounded in the beauty of the birth experience—even when it doesn’t go as planned. Your birth coach is the binding agent that helps keep it all together! As one of my clients says, “Latham is a producer for your birth.”
The doula can coach the laboring mom in breathing techniques, relaxation, and comfort measures, movement, and positioning that helps facilitate ease in birth. She also assists families in gathering information about the course of their labor. Labor support usually includes prenatal and postpartum meetings or home visits, 24-hour on-call support, emotional and comfort support during labor—not to mention, photos of your baby immediately after birth!
Birth coaches help facilitate an easier birth. In fact, having one present at your birth can cut your laboring time by 50 percent! Now if that’s not an incentive to exploring this empowering birth option, I don’t know what is.
According to Mothering The Mother, by Marshall Klaus, John Kennell, and Phyllis Klaus, studies have shown that the physiological effects of continual support during labor reduces:
- The chances of needing a C-section by 51 percent
- The length of labor by 25 percent
- The use of analgesia by 35 percent
- Pitocin augmentation by 40 percent
- The use of epidural anesthesia by 60 percent
- The use of forceps and vacuum by 30 percent
Moms who work with doulas report greater maternal satisfaction with childbirth, fewer incidences of postpartum depression, increased self-esteem, better mother-infant interaction, and improved breastfeeding success. A birth coach will stay with you during your labor until your baby is about an hour old, in addition to a few prenatal visits and one postnatal visit. Birth coaching services can range from pro bono to $3,000. Most labor support coaches charge between $1,000-3,500, depending upon experience and certifications. You can get labor coach recommendations from maternity centers, OB-GYN offices, yoga studio community boards, via DONA International, and online forums. At Mama Glow, we offer a range of birth coaches to support all birthing mothers. It is my dream that every woman has access to hand-holding and feels empowered at this pivotal moment in her life. You want to make sure you feel a level of chemistry, comfort, and safety with your birth coach, as she will accompany you during one of the most intimate and eventful experiences of your life. Whatever you do, go with your gut. If you meet a prospective birth coach and you’re not sure about her, keep looking. Remember, it’s all about you! Use the following questions to see if this person is right for you and your family:
- What inspired you to enter this field of work?
- What certifications do you hold?
- How long have you been a doula and how many births have you attended?
- What types of births have you attended—home birth, hospital, birth center?
- How do I get in touch with you when labor begins—are you always on call? When and where will you join me?
- If you are unavailable when I go into labor, do you have backups?
- What is your philosophy on childbirth? (Make sure your birth preferences are compatible with her practices and beliefs.)
- What techniques will you use to help me move through labor?
- How long will you stay with me after labor?
- What happens if I need a C-section?
- Do you provide postpartum services?
- Do you have experience helping nursing mothers?
- What’s your fee and refund policy?
- What does it cover?
For more information on labor support coaches/ doulas, please check out Mama Glow (mamaglow.com) to find the doula that’s right for you.
A renowned maternity lifestyle maven, wellness and birth coach, yoga teacher, and NYC mom, Latham Thomas is the bestselling author of Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy.