That’s where a new trend has begun: the hiring of a doula. A hundred years ago most women would have given birth with a ‘doula’ present – a labour support person. This woman would help them cope through labour physically and emotionally. The doula would leave all the medical ‘stuff’ to the midwife, but they would make sure Mom was feeling as relaxed as possible.
Linda and Jay were expecting their first baby when they first considered hiring a doula. They had been trying to conceive for some time and the pressure was on because Linda was already 40. After trying hypnosis, acupuncture, fertility treatments and other methods, Linda was finally pregnant. As pregnancy progressed and she began to think about labour, it dawned on her that she didn’t have all the help and support she wanted. Jay was a wonderful husband, but he was just as unsure as she was. Linda was also hoping for an unmedicated birth, hoping to avoid narcotics and an epidural. Her doctor informed her that her hospital had an epidural rate over 90%!
At this point Linda and Jay interviewed a potential doula. They immediately felt comforted by what the doula had to say. Her clients who go into labour on their own rarely use medication or epidurals. The reason she says: “when women are properly supported in labour physically and emotionally, they rarely feel they need them”.
A doula’s role includes teaching a couple what to expect in labour through childbirth education. That may include a group series of Lamaze® or other classes, or private one-on-one sessions. They remain on call 24/7 for birth in late pregnancy and usually meet couples at their home when labour begins. When the couple feels ready to go to the hospital (if not planning a home birth with midwives), the doula follows them there and stays with them until a couple of hours after baby is born. Throughout labour, they encourage position changes, perform massage, suggest shower/baths, encouragement, and many other comfort measures. They also usually help babies remain with Mom as much as possible after birth and help babies to begin breastfeeding soon after birth.
For Linda and Jay their doula was everything they could have wished for. They enjoyed their birth experience and it is one of their favourite moments to remember. Jay was thrilled with the help and encouragement, and felt that their doula helped him become more involved by suggesting things he wouldn’t have thought of on his own, like giving Linda a nice hand massage while she was sitting in a glider during labour. One of the nurses even commented how they achieved what less than 1% of women do at that hospital: an umedicated birth. They couldn’t imagine having done it any other way. They regularly tell people of their experience with a doula and recommend that others consider this option as well.
Stefanie Antunes is a Lamaze® Certified Childbirth Educator and certified doula. She is owner of Discover Birth, an organization looking to change the way women and families experience childbirth. She writes and speaks regularly on the topics of pregnancy, childbirth, and educator and doula’s roles. Discover Birth is always looking to add new educators and doulas to their team from across