Why Every Woman Should have a Doula

Published on: March 06, 2021

Having a doula can transform the birth process. Erika shares the benefits and how she improved her experience as a mom to be.

“If a doula were a drug, it’d be unethical not to use it” – John Kennell

By: Erika Lindley

My arrival in Bangkok two years ago was filled with excitement and apprehension, I subsequently found myself completely overwhelmed with the intensity of this city. It didn’t help that I was six months pregnant with a 20-month-old in tow. One of my first orders of business was finding a hospital and doctor to deliver my second baby. At that moment I was armed with a few recommendations from others who had delivered in Bangkok, but what I really wanted was to find somewhere I could have a similar birth experience to my first.  My first birthing experience was in Australia under a midwifery model of care. In the meantime, I took Calm Birth Courses and prepared myself mentally, physically, and emotionally for the birth I wanted. 

During my research in Bangkok, I discovered the section rate cesarean among the private hospitals in Bangkok was around 70-80%, while the World Health Organisation puts the ideal rate at 10-15%.

I was genuinely concerned my second birth would end this way even if it wasn’t medically necessary.

With so many hospitals and doctors to choose from, the first place I began my journey was in the ‘Choices in Childbirth’ meeting and after the first session, I felt more comfortable for the future.

Attending was valuable, allowing me to ask questions and express my fears and concerns, but it was also at this meeting that I met a doula who I knew I wanted by my side during labor.

From my first birth, I knew that childbirth was a natural, normal, physiological process then I was confident in myself and my ability to birth my baby. Our bodies know how to grow a child then why would we not know how to birth them? I was also aware of how fear slows down labor and inhibits our bodies from doing the work that brings our babies closer to the physical world.

Letting go of my fear surrounding childbirth in Bangkok was going to be crucial to moving through the stages of labor and it was my doula that allowed that to happen. She provided peace of mind. I trusted her to be my advocate and to remind the doctor and nurses of my birth preferences. She was a calm, quiet and confident presence in the room that put my mind at ease. Any fears or anxieties I had about birthing in Bangkok were gone because she kept me focused and reminded me of my birth plan, especially during the third stage of labor when I was having a difficult time delivering the placenta.

I have heard my fair share of traumatic stories relating to women’s birth experiences here in Bangkok. But birth doesn’t have to be traumatic should be empowering and transformative. As women, we have choices, this was something I didn’t understand until I was pregnant myself and something I am all the more aware of after becoming a doula! 

Having had two natural childbirths (one in Australia and the other in Thailand) I can say my experiences were both positive but very different. As a mother and a doula, I genuinely believe you need someone to help you navigate the medical system here. You need someone to help you gather information and make you aware of Bangkok hospital protocols and procedures. 

While the partner has a vital role to play in providing comfort and support, you need someone on your side as well as your partner who is familiar with the system here, to help guide you through childbirth and all that it entails. Additionally, a doula can provide physical, emotional, and informational support not only for you but also for your partner to enable them to perform their role effectively. Research documented on Evidence-Based Care has shown that people who have continuous support during the childbirth experience the following:

  • 25% decrease in the risk of Cesarean; with the largest effect seen with a doula (39% decrease)
  • 8% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth; the largest effect had seen with a doula (15% increase)
  • 10% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief; the type of person providing continuous support did not make a difference.
  • Shorter labors by 41 minutes on average; there is no data on if the type of person providing continuous support makes a difference.
  • 38% decrease in the baby’s risk of a low five-minute Apgar score; there is no data on if the type of person providing continuous support makes a difference.
  • 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience; mothers’ risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience was reduced with continuous support provided by a doula or someone in their social network (family or friend), but not hospital staff.

As highlighted in the first two outcomes, better results occurred when the mother-to-be had support from a doula. Doulas are trained professionals who are familiar with the birthing process with the local hospital system and can educate moms-to-be on what to expect and how to deal with the birthing process and help you plan for the type of birth you desire.

If you’re currently pregnant in Bangkok, reach out to a doula! A great place to start is to attend a ‘Choices in Childbirth’ meeting. These are run every month by a small group of doulas at Kuppa on Sukhumvit Soi 16: facebook.com/bangkokdoulas

You have options when it comes to childbirth and there are trained women here who want to support you and enable you to have a satisfying birth experience. Do your research, be firm with your decisions, and know your choices.

References:  Dekker, Dr. Rebecca. May 4, 2019. Evidence On: Doulas https://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/

Photo by Lindsey Weber on Unsplash.

About the Author

Originally from the USA, Erika followed her heart to Australia over 7 years ago and now calls “The Land Down Under” home. Her family has spent the past two years in Bangkok on a diplomatic post, with plans to return home at the end of 2021. She worked as a primary school teacher for many years before training as a doula through Birth Arts International. She is mum to two young girls and, having had two empowering births herself, knows how important it is to prepare for one of the most exciting yet overwhelming moments of a woman’s life. She is passionate about working with expecting mothers, educating and supporting them to achieve a positive birth experience.

The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects. BAMBI News welcomes volunteer contributors to our magazine. Please contact editor@bambiweb.org.