Doula as "Obstetric Technique"

Check out the MedWire News synopsis of a new study that was published in the journal Birth (2008: 35: 92-7)

Doula support reduces cesarean and epidural rates
by Lucy Piper 03 June 2008
Examining the perinatal effects of doula support for nulliparous middle-income women accompanied by a male partner during labor and delivery.

MedWire News: The continued presence of a doula during labor significantly reduces cesarean delivery rates and the need for epidural analgesia in middle- and upper-class U.S. women accompanied by their male partner or another family member, researchers report.

They suggest that maybe fathers should not be expected to fulfill the role of primary labor companion.

Susan McGrath and John Kennell from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, investigated the potential benefit during labor of an experienced doula to provide both emotional and instrumental support. A total of 420 women were randomly assigned to either have a doula present throughout labor in addition to their male partner or no such additional support.

Women who had the support of a doula had a significantly lower cesarean delivery rate than the control group, at 13.4 percent versus 25.0 percent. They were also less likely to need epidural analgesia, at 64.7 percent versus 76.0 percent, respectively.

Among women with induced labor, just 12.5 percent of women with a doula had a cesarean delivery, compared with 58.8 percent of those without a doula.

All women and their male partners who received the support of a doula rated their experience as positive.

"Continuous labor support by a doula is a risk-free obstetric technique that could benefit all laboring women and should be made available in all maternity units," the researchers conclude.

Fabulous study (Under "Do your Homework" in the resources, click on Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care or read the entire study via Recent Notable Journal Articles.) Who knew that continuous support by a doula would ever be called a "risk-free obstetric technique?" Only in the U.S., eh? The guys at Monty Python could have really used that in their birth scene in "The Meaning of Life"..."Oh, and we're forgetting the doula, that new risk-free obstetric technique! Put her next to the machine that goes "Ping!""

But, don't let that one phrase muddy the results of the study - they're great!