Not Just for “That Kind of Mom”: An ethnographic analysis of the perceived benefits of childbirth doulas in Rochester, New York
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Since the origin of childbirth, a female attendant has accompanied a woman in labor. As time progressed, these attendants began to receive special training, and became professionally known as doulas. The twentieth century has brought an increasing demand for highly medicalized birth practices, with hospital births and caesarian sections at an all-time high. The ability of a woman's body to naturally have a baby has been overshadowed by these practices, forcing many women to feel it is necessary to seek these methods in order to have a safe birth. This ultimately creates a realm of fear surrounding childbirth in America. Alternative birth practices, such as those where doulas are present, may be able to become more common if increased knowledge of doulas is available. Studying doulas allows for the identification of factors that contribute to a woman's choice to use a doula. The purpose of this study is to (1) gain a better understanding of the roles of doulas and their contributions to childbirth; (2) collect personal testimonies from women who have chosen to have doula-attended births regarding why they felt that was the best option; (3) acquire the doula's perspective on factors influencing a woman's decision to use a doula; (4) investigate through qualitative and ethnographic methods the perceived benefits of doula-attended births for both women and hospitals, including the ways in which hospitals accommodate for the presence of a doula.