After the initial excitement of a positive pregnancy test, the next overwhelming emotion many expectant mothers experience is fear. Fear about how their birth will unfold. “Will I be able to manage the pain? Will I feel out of control? Will I be able to follow my birth plan? Will my healthcare providers respect my wishes?”
In the quest for an empowered birth, a doula can be a woman’s best friend. Think of childbirth as climbing a mountain. It may very well be the hardest thing you will ever have to do, but it can also be the most beautiful and empowering. Would you attempt to climb Everest without direction, preparation and assistance? No. Likewise, preparing for childbirth requires guidance, forethought and support. In the world of childbirth, a doula is your expert guide.
The term doula comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves”. A doula does just that, providing knowledge and expert labour support to a pregnant and birthing mother. A doula, present for the entirety of the labour process in any birth setting, provides reassurance and comfort to a woman while guiding her through natural pain management techniques and helping her trust her body with the amazing task at hand. A doula may also advocate on behalf of a mother’s needs and desires for her birth. She is cheerleader, spokesperson, teacher and friend.
A doula does not supplant the job of father or anyone else as birth partner, but rather empowers the birth partner to support a labouring mother in the most effective ways possible. This can also take significant stress off of a birth partner who may be unsure of what to do or how to help.
Besides being a comforting and reassuring presence, how can having a doula change the course of a birth? A meta-analysis of birth studies found that constant labour support significantly reduced the chances of a woman experiencing caesarean, vacuum or forceps use during her labour. These supported women also experienced shorter labours, were less apt to use pain medications and reported higher satisfaction with their birth experience. Additionally, babies of these mothers were less likely to have low five-minute Apgar scores.
What’s more, the support from a doula doesn’t end as soon as baby is born. In fact, many doulas are trained to offer a range of post-partum support from lactation advice to a listening ear.
A beautiful birth can be the most powerful, lasting gift a woman can give to herself and her child. The key to such a birth is trusting that, in the words of Ina May Gaskin, “your body is not a lemon”. Your body was designed to bring your baby into this world. Your mind and spirit were designed to be loved and supported. Give yourself the gift of this love and support; have a doula walk alongside you on your birth journey.
1 Hodnett, Gates, Hofmeyr and Sakala
Huron Birth Blog
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