SEATTLE--When an expectant mom goes into labor, studies show having a doula in the room improves the outcome. But many women don't know what a doula is or where to find one.
Doulas are like a birth coach, providing moms-to-be with emotional and physical support before, during and after delivery. Swedish Medical Center just added 27 doulas to the staff, becoming the first in the state with its own paid, hospital based program. They expect it to lead to a drop in cesarean sections and the use of labor inducing drugs.
"The difference is huge," said Dr. Tanya Sorensen. As Swedish's Executive Director for Women's Services, she's been part of the effort to bring doulas on staff. "My own specialty is high risk obstetrics, and I think it's even more telling in those situations where there's somebody there who's completely focused on the patient and her experience as opposed to the medical part."
First time parents Clayton and Sara Kisko knew how they wanted to bring their son into the world, with music, candles, and a relaxed atmosphere. Six weeks before he was due, Xander threw that birth plan out the window.
"It was a very chaotic, crazy whirlwind situation," Sara said. She had preeclampsia and needed an emergency C-section. The couple said having doulas with them, kept them from being scared.
"It felt like things slowed down and we were able to take it in and because of it, we remember it fondly," Clayton said. "I don't know how we could have done it without them."
"To have somebody there to help you through contractions, to decipher what the doctor's saying and just to make you feel like you are part of your birth," Sara said.
Trina Williams is one of the new doulas at Swedish. "It'll be a good example for other hospitals around the country to see it's a benefit and not a hindrance," Williams said. She's already worked two births, including a teenage mother. "Her family was there, but she needed someone who was there for her," Williams sadi. "Everyone else in the room was emotional, excited, figuring out what was going on. So I was able to be there to comfort her, ease her anxiety about the situation."
If the Kiskos become second time parents, they say they'll definitely stick to at least one part of the birth plan - having their doulas.
"Can we tell how much we love them both, so much? I love them," Sara said.
Doula services range from $500 to $2,000 at Swedish, depending on experience. Parents can also still bring their own outside doula to a birth.