Why more mamas are working with doulas

Mamas who use doulas, on average, have better health outcomes than moms who don’t. 

Why more mamas are working with doulas

We know labor can feel daunting and overwhelming long before you ever feel a contraction.

Even after making the big decisions — Hospital or birth center? Obstetrician or midwife? — there are dozens of other details and potential scenarios to consider when making a birth plan.

For a growing number of women, the process involves deciding to work with a doula, who can then serve as an invaluable resource throughout the rest of pregnancy and as a knowledgeable support person when the big day comes.

According to a 2013 report from Listening To Mothers, six percent of mothers used a doula. Although that still represents a small minority of women, it had notably doubled from the three percent of women who reported using a doula during a similar 2006 report from Listening To Mothers.

That rise coincided with a 2012 study from Nursing for Women’s Health that found women who used doulas typically experienced shorter labors, had fewer unplanned cesarean sections and reported higher levels of satisfaction with their births.

And even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have recently noted that “published data indicate that one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula.” ACOG also found that doulas are largely “underutilized” in birth settings.

So, why use a doula? 

Because “it is the team philosophy of support and encouragement that lift women up during a time of vulnerability and change,” Staci Caspers, co-owner of Midwest Doulas in Minnesota, said.

Caspers emphasizes that doulas help partners rather than serve as replacements for them.

She explains, “Many times the families have not been through a birth, or even seen a birth, we are there to ensure that ‘this is normal’ the sound you hear is ‘normal’ your wife or partner is safe, the smells are ‘normal, the monitor is ‘normal.’”

The support a doula provides typically begins the moment you agree to work together, with most being available to field questions throughout pregnancy and help with birth plans.

However, Caspers notes the type of assistance offered by doulas “stops at the medical practices.”

She adds, “It is our job to physically and emotional lift up the client and let the medical professionals do their job.”

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A 2013 study published in The Cochrane Review that involved 15,000 women found those who received continuous support during labor from a person such as a doula were less likely to get an epidural or get a c-section.

However, Jenn Leonard, co-owner of Colorado Mountain Doulas in Colorado, says doulas can assist in whatever type of labor the mother-to-be wishes to have — or ultimately has.

“There are only two times a family should not use a doula. The first is if they do not want one,” Leonard says.

“The only other reason that a family should not use a doula is if that doula is unprofessional, judgmental, or tells the family she will speak for them. These situations should not be tolerated by a family. Their birth is theirs alone and they get to make all of the decisions.”

If you are considering using a doula or just want to learn more, contact one in your area to schedule a meeting.

Leonard suggests asking about the doula’s certifications and training, what would happen in the case of an emergency and whether the doula is receptive to your birth plan.

Above all else, remember a doula should be an advocate, not an intruder — so try to get a sense of whether you would be comfortable working together.

As Leonard puts it, you deserve to “own” your birth and the purpose of a doula is to help you do that.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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