We’ve long known continuous labor support– the kind offered by labor support doulas–can reduce risks in childbirth. This week, the most trusted name in medical research, The Cochrane Collaboration, published an updated systematic review of the effects of continuous labor support. The conclusions strongly affirm the benefits of this practice. They also suggest that continuous labor support should be covered for all women, regardless of economic status.
I encourage you to check out the review, which summarizes results of 21 randomized controlled trials that involved over 15 thousand women, but for now, some highlights via the equally trustworthy resource Childbirth Connection:
The report concludes: “Continuous support during labor should be the norm, rather than the exception. Policy makers should consider making continuous labor support a covered service, and hospitals should implement programs to offer continuous labor support. In present maternity care environments, benefits of continuous support are likely to be greater with companions who are not hospital staff members than with members of the hospital staff.”
In terms of how continuous labor support from non-hospital staff can help, here are some data. Overall, women who received continuous support were less likely than women who did not to:
- have regional analgesia
- have any analgesia/anesthesia
- give birth with vacuum extraction or forceps
- give birth by cesarean
- have a baby with a low 5-minute Apgar score
- report dissatisfaction or a negative rating of their experience.
Women receiving continuous support were more likely than those who did not to:
- give birth spontaneously (that is, with neither cesarean nor vacuum extraction nor forceps)
- have a shorter labor.
Overall, continuous support did not seem to impact:
- use of synthetic oxytocin during labor
- newborn admission to special care nursery
- prolonged newborn hospital stay
- breastfeeding at 1 to 2 months postpartum
- postpartum depression
- postpartum self-esteem
- severe postpartum labor pain
- severe perineal trauma
- difficulty mothering
Bottom Line: Continuous labor support helps reduce risks in childbirth. And it should be something that every women is offered, regardless of how much money she has in the bank, or what she wants out of birth.
Click here for the full review.
Click here for more info about doulas.
Click here to find a doula.
Click here for information on how to support your partner in labor.
photo: Jef Samp/Flickr