Anthropologist Dana Raphael in her book, The Tender Gift, originally coined the word doula. In this book, the author wrote about the supportive person always on hand to nurture, support, and protect the new mother during her transition into motherhood. This person frees the new mother from her responsibilities so she can rest and concentrate on breastfeeding her baby successfully. She mothers the mother.
Today, the doula’s relationship with the mother and her family often begins during pregnancy, and continues throughout labor and delivery and for several weeks postpartum.
In six clinical trials the impressive results with the presence of a doula clearly show the benefits of enlisting doula support during labor and delivery. There were 50% fewer cesarean-sections, 25% reduction in the length of labor, 30% less pain medication, 40% decrease in Pitocin (artificial hormone to stimulate contractions) use, 40% reduction in forceps use, and 60% fewer requests for epidural anesthesia. The doula is a big help to the expectant father, who might not always know exactly how to comfort his partner during labor. The doula allows the partner to concentrate on loving and supporting the mother, while he is also supported in his role.
Postpartum Home Care When new mothers have support at home in the early weeks after delivery, the risk of postpartum depression diminishes, and the chance of breastfeeding successfully increases. Healing from birth, and learning to take care of a newborn baby might otherwise be overwhelming. Most families are miles apart, friends and neighbors are working, and, typically, the new Dad is back to work within a short period of time. The wise women of the family are unavailable to teach the new mother about breastfeeding and baby care, help with other siblings, and to take care of the household chores. The doula takes care of all these things. With the support of a doula, the transition from pregnancy to motherhood is more manageable.