With so much information regarding birthing floating around today, where does an expectant mother start? Well, today you can start here on SkinnyMom and get some information on Doulas. I got in touch with a friend, Rachel McDaris, who has recently entered into the doula profession, to get her take on some of the most common questions. Here is what she had to say:
1. What is a doula/ What does a doula do? Why did you decide to go into this profession?
The word doula is actually Greek and means “a woman who serves.” Essentially, that is what I do for an expectant mother before, during, and after the birth of a child; I continually support her physically and emotionally and provide her with any information she needs. I make every effort to help mom and dad be as educated and informed as they can be about the birth process and their birth options so they can make informed decisions about their birth. I also provide reassurance and perspective to mom and dad. I can make suggestions for how to help labor progress, and I can help with relaxation, positioning, massage, and other comfort techniques. I also provide practical and emotional support during the postpartum period, specifically helping the new mother with breastfeeding her new baby.
I am a relatively new doula and childbirth educator (I am currently certifying with Informed Beginnings as a certified childbirth educator). I had my first child in 2009 and though the birth was of course wonderful in many ways, I was not as educated as I could have been and some of my wishes for my delivery were not respected. I knew I wanted things to be different when we found out we were expecting another little girl in 2011. I went to work educating myself (by this time I was already on the road to being a doula and childbirth instructor), taking classes and reading anything I could get my hands on. I also hired a doula. When it came time to give birth to my second, we were empowered and ready to have the unmedicated, peaceful birth we had always hoped for. Though she was two weeks past her due date, she came right on God’s time and the birth was a wonderful, transcendent experience. I suppose through my road to motherhood, I discovered the passion I had for advocating the respect of women and families’ wishes throughout the birth process. I saw the difference in having someone “on your team” in my very different births, and I knew I wanted to help other people have the births they hoped for. And ultimately, I believe every baby deserves a joyful, peaceful welcome into the world, and that is what drives me.
2. What are the benefits of having a doula?
According to the Doulas of North American website, www.DONA.org: Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps, or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
Research shows parents who receive support can:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse
3. How do you go about finding a doula?
Doulas can often be found by referral through your care provider (midwife or OB). Also, local birth and breastfeeding organizations are often a good place to start as well. Ask other moms, as old-fashioned word of mouth is of course a great way to find a really competent doula. And, of course, you can look on the Doulas of North America website at www.DONA.org.
4. What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to an expecting mother with regards to the birth?
Hard question. There is so much to say. We live in a society that dramatizes birth in the media and in society in such a way that women are led to believe that they aren’t capable of birthing. That their bodies are inept. I would say to most expectant moms that you are stronger and more capable than you could ever imagine. Your body grew this precious miracle and, therefore, can be trusted to bring him or her into the world safely and peacefully. Pregnancy and childbirth are not illnesses. They are normal states of being to be celebrated and not feared. I long for women to believe in themselves and their bodies, and I love helping moms overcome their fears going into childbirth so they can enjoy their child’s birth-day. I would sum up by saying, in the words of Laura Stavoe Harm, “There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It is that women are strong”