A woman’s first pregnancy is a joyous occasion. So much to look forward to: bringing a new life into the world, so many changes of her own…the next stage of life. But many women are increasingly feeling worried, nervous, even afraid. They hear horror stories from friends and family and are looking for a more calm experience. That’s where a new trend has begun: the hiring of a doula. A hundred years ago most women would have given birth with a ‘doula’ present – a labour support person. This woman would have helped her cope through labour physically and emotionally. The doula would have left all the medical ‘stuff’ to the midwife, but she would have made sure Mom was feeling as relaxed as possible.
Linda was expecting her first baby when she first considered hiring a doula. She had been trying to conceive for some time and the pressure was on because Linda was already 40. After trying hypnosis, acupuncture, fertility treatments and other methods, Linda was finally pregnant. As pregnancy progressed and she began to think about labour, it dawned on her that she didn’t have all the help and support she wanted. Though she had other support people, they were just as unsure as she was.
At this point Linda interviewed a potential doula. She immediately felt comforted by what the doula had to say.
A doula’s role includes teaching a woman what to expect in labour through childbirth education. That may include a group series of Lamaze® or other prenatal classes, or private one-on-one sessions. They remain on call 24/7 for birth in late pregnancy and usually meet women at their home when labour begins. When the woman feels ready to go to the hospital (if not planning a home birth with midwives), the doula follows her there and stays with her until a couple of hours after baby is born. Throughout labour, they encourage position changes, use comforting touch (massage), suggest shower/baths, encouragement, and many other comfort measures. They also usually help babies remain with Mom as much as possible after birth and help babies to begin breastfeeding soon after birth.
For Linda, her doula was everything she could have wished for. She enjoyed her birth experience and it is one of her favourite moments to remember. Her other support people were thrilled with the help and encouragement too, and felt that the doula helped them become more involved by suggesting things they wouldn’t have thought of on their own, like giving Linda a nice hand massage while she was sitting in a glider during labour. One of the nurses even commented how Linda achieved what less than 1% of women do at that hospital: an unmedicated birth. She couldn’t imagine having done it any other way. She regularly tells people of her experience with a doula and recommends that others consider this option as well regardless of what kind of birth they are planning. She believes the support was invaluable.
Stefanie Antunes is a Lamaze® Certified Childbirth Educator and certified doula through DONA International. She is owner of Discover Birth, an organization looking to change the way women and families experience childbirth. She writes and speaks regularly on the topics of pregnancy, childbirth, and educator and doula’s roles. www.discoverbirth.com 1-877-BIRTH36
Stefanie will be sharing her knowledge at Janati Yoga School on Feb 28 – Mar 1st for a 2-day doula training. Find out how you can become a certified doula, supporting women through their birthing journey.