We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a baby. But what does it take to have a baby? Historically, pregnancy and birthing have involved support from other women – women that can offer emotional support, comfort measures, and information. According to this 2013 study, this type of supportive care during labor results “greater physiologic labour processes as well as women’s feelings of control and competence, and thus reduce the need for obstetric intervention.” In recent times, however, this type of continuous support (during labor and otherwise) has “become the exception rather than the norm” as hospital births (rather than home births) have become more popular. Women now are subject to institutional routines in which they have little access to the kinds of support that they need to positively progress the labor.
So how do women get this type of support? Many women turn to family members and doulas. Recently I asked one of our previous doulas at Lotus why she would recommend having a doula in addition to (or instead of) your mother or sister in the room. She answered, “If you need to fix your car, you don’t take it to just anybody. You take it to a mechanic – someone who knows what they’re doing. Similarly, a doula is trained to assist a woman during childbirth. Many times, the family members surrounding you during your birth have never experienced birth themselves, let alone witnessed one. Instead, they’ve been conditioned by media and movies, and they have their own fears about what’s going to happen in that room. In the instances that you do have another woman in there with you who has given birth, she is most likely bringing all her emotional experiences with her. When it comes to the father or partner in the birthing room, if he or she is at all uncomfortable with the birthing process, it becomes even more valuable to have the support of a doula.” (You can read more of her responses here).
So, what is a doula?
A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or who has recently given birth,” according to the American pregnancy Association. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience. The relationship between the doula and the (soon to be) mother usually starts a few months before the baby is due. During that time, the mother and doula discuss fears and concerns, create a birth plan, and develop trust between each other. It is important to note that doulas do not provide any type of medical care; however, they are very knowledgeable in the medical aspects of labour and delivery.
What does the doula do?
Here is a list of the services most doulas provide, depending on the training and skills of the particular doula. (This list is not intended to be comprehensive but it should give expectant mothers a good idea of what services to look forward to.)
- Birth education and preparation
- Birth planning (including creating a written birth plan/birth preferences document)
- De-briefing previous births
- Massage and other comfort measures
- Optimal fetal positioning
- Suggest positions and changes to help ease pain and facilitate a smoother, more effective labour
- Provide reassurance and encouragement
- Talking through emotional blockages which may come up during pregnancy and labour
- Keep your ‘environment’ going – aromatherapy, music, candles, etc.
- Assisting you with negotiation of your preferences
- Photography and/or vide of the birth itself, as well as those precious first moments as a family
The Proven Benefits of Having a Doula
- Less likely to have a caesarean section
- Reduction in the use of forceps and vacuum
- Fewer requests for epidurals
- Reduction in the use of synthetic oxytocin for inductions or augmentations
- Reduction in the use of pain medication
- Reduction in labour length
- Increased rates of breastfeeding at 6 weeks postpartum
- Higher self-esteem, less anxiety and less depression at 6 weeks postpartum
Of course, one of the biggest bonuses of hiring a doula is that she is a professional birth support person. She has a keen eye and intuition for what a mother needs during her labour and when to provide it.
If you are looking for a doula in Bermuda or you would like to request more information, please fill in the form below and we will get back to you shortly.