|Posted by Stephanie Hayes on May 2, 2012 at 3:15 PM|
By Stephanie Hayes, CD(DONA)
(Originally published in WHAT'S UP Muskoka - May 2, 2012)
When my journey to motherhood began a number of years ago, I embraced it, with confidence in the natural process of birth. Yet as I navigated through three very different labours, I discovered how much I would have benefited from the constant presence of a birth-wise woman. Though I had my caring husband by my side, many times, as a nurse entered the room, I wished she could remain. Her presence and experience strengthened and comforted me in a reassuring way.
At one time in our not so distant history, birth was quite different from how it appears today. Most babies were born at home, with their mothers surrounded and supported by family and community women. Their wisdom came from years of childbearing experience and attending others’ births. Even in our modern society, this one thing remains constant: birthing women benefit from the continuous care of other women.
Commonly, the role of “mothering the mother” is filled by midwives and nurses. However, as workplace pressures and medical responsibilities require more of their time and attention, they often appreciate assistance in providing this support. Now we are seeing the age-old art of women caring for women being revived in the modern form of a doula.
The term doula (doo-lah) is a Greek word which has come to describe women, trained and experienced in childbirth, who provide non-medical care to labouring women throughout their birthing experiences. The presence and support of a doula has been repeatedly proven in numerous studies to reduce the incidence of interventions, caesareans, and the use of pain medication. Labours were reported to be somewhat shorter, and women expressed greater satisfaction with their births, with less likelihood of postpartum depression. Bonding between mothers and babies appeared enhanced, with breastfeeding more successful. (Visit www.dona.org and www.childbirthconnection.org for more information on these studies.)
Typically a doula will meet with the mother or couple prenatally, enabling them to get to know her and to explore their birth options and resources. She works in conjunction with midwives and doctors, within the chosen birth location of home, hospital or birth centre. She respects the intimate connection between a couple and encourages them in making informed choices for their birth. Throughout labour the doula provides a continuous presence and support, remaining constant through shift changes, often arriving in early labour before the attendance of the medical care provider may be required. She offers reassurance and assistance with techniques that can aid in labour progress and comfort to the mother. After the baby’s arrival, a doula also provides guidance with breastfeeding as well as postpartum support. This continuous woman-to-woman care can empower the birthing woman and enhance her transition into the mothering role.
Stephanie Hayes is a Certified Doula through DONA International and trained in childbirth education and breastfeeding support. She resides with her family in the Gravenhurst area and provides care to Muskoka families.