A Short History of Labor Support
For most of human history, labor support was given by grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and friends. Loved ones would gather around the woman in labor and provide for her needs.
With the industrial revolution and expansion of hospitals, birth was removed from community settings. Families became dispersed, and the passed-down generational wisdom of birth was forgotten.
Though benefits did emerge from birth moving to hospitals, we have also experienced alarming unintended consequences.
The Sad State of Modern US Maternity Care
It may surprise you to know that the United States has some shocking maternity care outcomes.
According to the CDC, about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of complications during the perinatal period. The US has higher rates of maternal deaths than 45 other countries, and is the only developed country with a consistently rising maternal mortality rate. Almost all of these deaths are preventable.
We also have troubling racial disparities, with black and brown women being 2 to 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. (This is even when controlling for education and socioeconomic factors.)
- Sadly, the issues with modern American maternity care continue. In recent years, largely spurred by the #MeToo Movement, more and more women are exposing their birth trauma. Obstetric violence, the term used for abuse in childbirth, is a trend that has many perinatal professionals concerned. There are documented issues with our medical malpractice system. Even in this most joyous time of life, sadly, birthing people are not safe from malpractice.
- Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/
- Every Mother Counts, https://everymothercounts.org/giving-birth-in-america/
- Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0905-racial-ethnic-disparities-pregnancy-deaths.html
- CBS News finds medical boards often fail to discipline doctors for malpractice, CBS, https://www.cbsnews.com/video/cbs-news-finds-medical-boards-often-fail-to-discipline-doctors-for-malpractice/
That is a scary list of issues. It’s at once shocking and sobering. Not to mention, the mere process of childbirth alone is enough to send many people to a place of discomfort and panic.
But these challenges are not insurmountable. We know how to reverse these trends and create change for the better.
Better Birth In the US Is Possible: Doulas Improve Outcomes
The good news is that many organizations are working to address our maternal health crisis.
And here's another piece of good news: doula care improves health outcomes!
Science backs up the benefits of doulas. A collective of studies found:
"Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to one emotional support provided by support personnel, such as a doula, is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor. Benefits found in randomized trials include shortened labor, decreased need for analgesia (epidural), fewer operative (forceps, vacuum) deliveries, and increased maternal satisfaction post-labor."
- Position Statement: Doulas and Birth Outcomes, March of Dimes, https://www.marchforbabies.org/
On a personal note, these kind words from a past client paint a very beautiful picture of what doula care looks like in action, and how care improves outcomes:
“Hiring Victoria as our doula and our birthing class instructor was the best decision of our pregnancy. My husband and I learned so much from Victoria about comfort measures, informed consent, advocacy, and just the nitty gritty of making labor and delivery decisions based on the best evidence. Victoria was with me at every step of the way, including the most difficult parts of the labor. I had my own personal cheerleader, advocate, and masseuse all wrapped up in one. She got along so well with the nurses and midwife that she truly brightened everyone’s day and created a calm sense of camaraderie in the birthing room, And she stayed with me long after delivery to make sure that I was never alone when my husband had to step out and communicate with family. Victoria also checked in with us frequently after the birth to see how parenting was going, and she still checks on us to make sure we’re all thriving. Victoria truly cares about our family and our well being, and she has the compassion and skills to make our birth a positive, beautiful experience.”
You can see that doulas truly make a difference! If you want to learn more about doula care for any reason, schedule a 30 min call with me below.