What is a Professional Labor Assistant?

pregnant woman in a white dress

The process of labor and delivery can be a dramatic and overwhelming event that many mothers (and fathers) seek additional help to cope with. Many single women and couples turn to a professional labor assistant (PLA) to get them through this event the best way possible. Also known as a doula, labor coach or monitrice, professional labor assistants are specially trained to support a woman and her husband before, during and after labor and delivery.

A professional labor assistant has training in obstetrics. She may be a midwife, a nurse midwife, a doula or a nurse who specializes in obstetrics. More than likely she has children of her own, thus having personal experience with pregnancy and childbirth. With a professional labor assistant, you’ll most definitely have the support of a woman who has a passion for helping other women through labor.

Although most dads turn out to be fantastic labor coaches, professional labor assistants have the training and experience that few dads have in this area. Some dads may be distracted by his own discomfort and insecurity, older children, extended family, the hospital environment and his wife’s pain. Most men will mean well, but when faced with the reality of the situation may not know how to best support their wives or help make decisions related to the labor and delivery. Studies have shown that labors that are supported by other women are up to 50% shorter on average. There are fewer interventions, up to 60% fewer epidurals and a 50% reduction in c-sections.

pregnant woman talking to a doctor

The relationship with a professional labor assistant may begin well before the first contractions of labor start. She may be involved early on in the pregnancy with childbirth education classes, and may even participate in prenatal care. She may also assist the parents with making a birth plan that outlines how they would like labor and delivery to progress. During labor and delivery, a professional labor assistant will help the parents make decisions regarding medical interventions, fetal monitoring, etc. She will give advice, support and additional information regarding different options.

A professional labor assistant will serve as an advocate for the family so that mom and dad can use their energy to focus on the labor and delivery. When it comes to pain management, the PLA will use her training and expertise in alternative coping methods such as massage, relaxation, breathing techniques and positions.

Most women who have had the assistance of a PLA will attest to the benefits of having someone there to anticipate their needs and help them cope with the difficulties of labor and delivery. A professional labor assistant can be pricey — costing up to $700 US Dollars (USD), typically not covered by insurance. Some women may not have a spouse or partner to help them during labor and delivery either due to personal choice, death or absence due to a job or military service. In these cases, some professional labor assistants will work pro bono. Start your search for a certified personal labor assistant with an agency such as Doulas of North America.

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