Sunday 4 November 2012

What in the spinning world is a doula? And what does she do, anyway?

I find myself urging all my pregnant friends overseas to get a doula. I sound slightly nutty, like when I discovered quinoa and was pushing it on people incessantly. Eat quinoa, the gold of the Andes, delicious, crazy nutritious, so round and cute, you can make veg burgers without using eggs, quinoa quinoa!!
My friends love me and humour me, but mostly think I'm nuts and possibly initiated into a doula quinoa cult.
So why would it be lovely if every mother had a doula? What does she do? When does one need her?
A doula is someone who looks out for you, who is there. A doula can support a couple through preconception, pregnancy, birth and the early days of parenthood. A doula informs and supports. She is there through losses, holds hands though decision making and supports a couple as long as they need her.
During pregnancy a doula will generally be informative, supplying information as the couple makes decisions regarding place of birth, preparation of a birth plan, anticipates postpartum needs and things to organize ahead of time. A doula and her doulees will go over birth options, pain relief options, ideas on nutrition and exercise. The doula might mention helpful ideas for the time after the baby is born, regarding choices of professionals, parenting groups, baby feeding, baby wearing, etc. A doula will not push her personal choices and ideas on the couple, but rather give them information and encourage them to educate themselves, to look within themselves and form their own parenting and birthing path.
Sometimes people feel that a doula would take the partner's place, particularly at the birth. I think, in a way, a doula is mostly for the partner. Especially at the birth. A doula is a like a breeze, like a swishing swish finding, anticipating needs, happy to oblige. So the partner can do what partners do at the birth of their child: love the mother. A doula will be where the couple need her, home, in the delivery room, in the waiting room, wherever the doulees feel they need her to be. She will be there for as long as they need her, when they feel the birth is starting and they need support, through the many or few hours or days, until they need her to leave.
During the time after the baby is born, the doula is within reach. A new family needs time and privacy to grow. It is a wonderful time, demanding and crazy. It is a time of love and commitment, a time of absolute joy/despair. New moms and dads sometimes  find that those can go hand in hand. Hopefully a doula will be helpful, with encouraging words, reminding the parents that they are the most perfect parents for this brand new baby. A doula will be helpful with nursing/feeding and baby issues that might come up.
A doula is not a health care provider. But she is informed and dedicated. She knows her area and the resources available, she knows research and facts. A doula's richest asset is herself: her willingness to help, her open heart and strong arms. Her doulees have hired her for her presence and support, which can make such a big difference. This is why the most important thing when choosing a doula is a feeling, a certain clicking of hearts. People know their doula when they meet her. A doula's strongest knowledge is awareness of what she does not know; and knowing whom to call. A doula has a network of professionals behind her.

DONA International cites:

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
Numerous studies have documented the benefits of having a doula present during labor. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. With the support of a doula, women were less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported having a more positive childbirth experience (Hodnett ED et al 2003) Other studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and requests for an epidural by 60%. Doulas also increase breastfeeding success and overall satisfaction of labor (Klaus, Kennell, & Klaus, 1993).

This is a lovely post on a mother happy with her doula. 

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