Labor is an intense physical and emotional experience. It can make a big difference to have someone there to help with your labor comfort and progress, to remind you that what's happening is normal and healthy, and to give you information about your care.
Some women also want comforting touch or gentle assistance moving and changing positions in labor. They may also appreciate encouragement and help communicating their wishes to their clinical care providers. Partners or spouses may welcome guidance in supporting the woman at this time.
Throughout the ages, laboring women have been comforted and reassured by other women. Today, labor support professionals called doulas (DOO-lah; Greek for "woman who serves") are trained to provide women with supportive care during labor.
Research shows that the availability of this type of support in labor can reduce your chance of having a cesarean, vacuum extraction or forceps birth; the likelihood that you will use pain medications; and the risks associated with these interventions. Thus, planning for excellent support in labor is a way to make birth safer and healthier for you and your baby. Research also shows that having good support can affect how you feel about your birth, and that memories of childbirth experiences often stay with women throughout their lives.
Learn more about labor support and what kinds of people can provide supportive care during childbirth.
Read about the benefits and specifics of working with a labor support specialist or doula and get helpful tips for choosing a doula.
Keep up-to-date on the best evidence around labor support, including how it can positively affect your birth experience.