The birth of each baby has a long lasting impact on the physical and mental health of mother, baby and family. In the twentieth century, we have witnessed vast improvements in the safety of childbirth, and now efforts to improve psychosocial outcomes are receiving greater attention. Even with quality obstetrical care, mothers have critical needs before, during and after childbirth. This includes education and emotional support as they prepare for their baby’s birth and later as they bond with their baby and integrate it into their families. During the birthing process, the mother-to-be needs comfort, encouragement and respect from trusted and knowledgeable companions along with the care and services provided by medical personal.
The importance of fostering relationships between parents and infants cannot be overemphasized, since these early relationships largely determine the future of each family, and also of society as a whole. The quality of emotional care received by the mother during labor, birth, and immediately afterwards is one vital factor that can strengthen or weaken the emotional ties between mother and child. Furthermore, when women receive continuous emotional support and physical comfort throughout childbirth, their obstetric outcomes may improve.
The doula’s goal is to help the woman have a safe and satisfying childbirth as the woman defines it. When a doula is present, some women feel less need for pain medications, or may postpone them until later in labor; however, many women choose or need pharmacological pain relief. It is not the role of the doula to discourage the mother from her choices. The doula helps her become informed about various options, including the risks, benefits and accompanying precautions or interventions for safety. Doulas can help maximize the benefits of pain medications while minimizing their undesirable side effects. The comfort and reassurance offered by the doula are beneficial regardless of the use of pain medications.