Numerous studies have revealed the benefits of having a doula present during labor. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, revealed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. When a doula was present, women were less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported having a more positive childbirth experience. Other studies have shown that having a doula as part of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin (used to start or stimulate labor) by 40% and the request for an epidural by 60%.
Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor. According to physicians Marshal Klaus and John Kennell, massage helps stimulate the production of natural oxytocin. The pituitary gland secretes natural oxytocin to the bloodstream which causes uterine contractions and also secretes it to the brain, which results in a feeling of well being, drowsiness and a raised pain threshold. Synthetic IV oxytocin cannot cross into the blood stream and brain, so it increases contractions without the positive psychological effects of natural oxytocin.