Article by Cheryl Sheriff Registered Doulahttp://www.idealbirth.com.au/
“I knew she was there and she just melted into the action, whispering in my ear, reminding me at every turn how strong I was and simply that I could do it.”
A new mother speaking of her doula
Women helping women give birth is an ancient practice that is still widespread today.
The value of continuous labour support has been studied and well documented for many years. Today its value is even more significant as women enter very medically focused birthing environments. Despite being well prepared and informed many still feel they have to cross their fingers and hope for the best.
Gentle births are easier when the mother chooses and trusts the people with her during labour. A professional trained doula can bring reassurance to both parents. Doulas are trained to suggest position changes, provide massage, and employ other techniques to assist with achieving the desired birth outcomes.
The birthing couple’s relationship with their doula usually begins well before birth when she spends time providing balanced unbiased information so they are able to make informed birth choices for themselves. A special connection develops as she facilitates communication between herself and the couple in preparing for and carrying out their plans for birth. Doulas share their confidence, knowledge and belief in birth, recognising it as a key life experience the couple will always remember. Many women feel the need to receive support from someone who trusts a woman’s ability to birth.
Doulas work in birth centres, private and public hospitals and at homebirths in conjunction with midwives but never as the sole carer at birth. As she is employed by the birthing couple, her loyalty is always with the individuals she is supporting.
As a doula doesn’t perform clinical tasks during labour she is able to concentrate completely on your needs. You will never be left alone but supported by a professional who is totally focused on you from the onset of labour until after your baby is born. A doulas success depends on her ability to communicate well with a diverse group of clinical staff. An experienced doula becomes respected as an individual and is able to assist you in communicating and advocating for the birth preferences that are important to you. She will be intuitive to your needs at a time when you are most vulnerable. Our current health care system places pressure on our health carers, particularly midwives. They are usually unable to stay with a woman for her entire labour, much as they would like to.
A Doula becomes a protector of your birthing space helping to create an environment that is comfortable to you and becoming a buffer to all that might distract and affect normal progress. For labour to progress well it requires a fine balance of hormones which can be easily influenced by external factors. During different stages of labour a woman’s needs and preferences may change, even within a short period of time. Being aware and observant is very important. A doula communicates on a visceral level. She breathes with the woman, she feels the experience with the woman and she tends to the emotions where as medical caregivers often communicate only at an intellectual level. Both roles are of course important and complement each other.
Studies have shown the presence of a doula doesn’t in any way displace the father, but rather enhances his role. A professional support person assists in decreasing the father’s anxiety, giving him support and encouragement and guiding him in specific tasks, allowing him to reach out to his partner in a more caring and nurturing way.
Fathers with doula support should be able to participate at any level that feels right and natural for them. In this way they can fully experience the joy and wonder of watching their baby come into the world. Birth can then be a truly shared event.
Constant doula support has been proven to have many benefits for the progress and outcomes of labour…
50% reduction of caesarean rates
25% shorter labour
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in Syntocinon use
30% reduction in pain medication
40% reduction in forceps delivery
“The period around childbirth appears to be a unique time when mothers are unusually open to change. It is a formative developmental stage and has the potential for either a positive or negative outcome. Because of the new mother’s physical and emotional sensitivity, the care she and her infant receive during this time can have a beneficial or detrimental long term effect on her” Klaus Kennell and Klaus
The benefits of a good birth, where you have felt respected and empowered will flow over into the postnatal period. Its value continues on into many aspects of the lives of families. Parents need for support does not of course stop at the moment of birth. Doula support is also available following birth during the major period of adjusting to their now role as hparents. They are able to provide assistance with breast feeding and settling techniques as well as physically assisting with daily routines.
Support, both physical and emotional, continues to be crucial. Women giving birth with doula support have been shown to have higher self esteem and experience less depression and anxiety. They breastfeed more successfully and are more confident in caring for their baby. With the right environment, birth can be empowering and have a profoundly positive effect on the whole family. It is the journey of a lifetime for you and your baby and is worthy of the best possible beginning.
Article by Cheryl Sheriff Registered Doula www.idealbirth.com.au