Monday, August 21, 2017

Doulas & Partners

Just click on the image and you will be able to read all the font.

The Purpose and Value of Labor Support

 I once heard, that it is not how we how we give birth, but how we remember it. While the birth process is extremely important for the long term health of the mother and the baby, a women's experience of childbirth impacts her emotionally and psychologically for the rest of her life. It is for this very reason, that the presence of a doula is so important. A doula recognizes birth as a powerful experience and aims to help her client have a "safe and satisfying childbirth as the woman defines it". (DONA). 

Throughout history, women have supported other women in labor. Today we call such a woman a "doula". A doula is defined by DONA as “a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth". This continuous emotional reassurance and support allows women to bring their babies into the world with less pain and greater satisfaction.  When a woman is supported and cared for during childbirth she is more likely to be satisfied with her overall birth experience.  As a result, she is less likely to experience post partum depression. Furthermore, women who have been continuously supported throughout labor tend to bond with their babies more quickly and breastfeed more easily. Those babies tend to have shorter hospital stays, and receive more affection from their mothers. Not only do studies show that "obstetric outcomes were most improved and intervention rates most dramatically lowered by doulas in settings were women were not allowed to have loved ones present", but also that (DONA) doulas are an invaluable resource even when a woman's partner is present.  While some partners are incredibly intuitive and supportive towards their birthing partners, others struggle to find their place. Having a doula there helps the birth partner focus on the mother and keep her calm.   Furthermore, she can demonstrate or perform massage techniques that either she or her partner can utilize.  When a woman enters the maternity ward she is often cared for by strangers. This is especially the case when a doctor is her caregiver. A doula, however, is a friendly, familiar face who is familiar with the woman's preferences and concerns and who has established both rapport and connection with her. These things can be invaluable in a situation where the laboring mother is anxious or experiences conflicts with the medical team. According to DONA international, the presence of a doula not only results in shorter labors with fewer complications, but also reduces the requests for pain medication by 9% and the use of synthetic oxytocin by 31%. The continuous support of a doula has shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of cesarean sections by 28%, as well as the use of forceps and vacuum extraction. Studies also show that the presence of a doula reduces the incidence of negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience by 34%. These are powerful statistics!

While the medical staff are preoccupied with the health and welfare of laboring woman and her unborn child; keeping track of fetal tones, blood pressure and other vitals, the doula is primarily concerned with helping the mother cope emotionally and physically with the rigors of childbirth. Often this means providing  comfort measures such as massage, counter pressure, movement, encouragement,  positioning, breathing, relaxation as well as providing her partner with tips on how they can provide support. In doing so, the doula is able to give the continuous support that the hospital staff is unable to provide due to time constraints and charting responsibilities.  When the doula focuses on meeting the non-medical needs of the mother while facilitating communication between the couple and the medical team, she becomes a perfect complement to the hospital's existing medical staff. A doula plays a significant role in that she is able to pace her client and is not emotionally caught up in the experience. She is calm and reassuring. While a doula is a valuable resource during labor, she is also tremendously helpful in emotionally and mentally preparing the pregnant woman and her partner for labor. She is an incredible resource and "informed about various options available to the pregnant women, “including the risks, benefits and accompanying precautions or interventions for safety" (DONA). She does not require an appointment and is available for questions or conversation at any time. Furthermore, she can help the couple create a birth plan after discussing all their options with them.  The doula then pays attention to the birth plan and uses it to guide her actions and suggestions.  She makes sure that the staff is aware of the mother's birth plan, especially with regard to her preferences for pain medication and other interventions. Because a doula understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor, she can reassure both the laboringwoman as well as her partner, as birth transpires. She can explain procedures, as well as help the couple ask the appropriate questions when faced with a decision. During labor she helps the laboring woman find a ritual that helps her cope with contractions. After the delivery, the doula remains with the mother, her partner and child to help with breastfeeding. In the days following, the doula gives the mom and her partner the chance to reflect on their experience and talk about their feelings about labor and delivery.  In doing so she acknowledges the sacred power of childbirth and its impact on families as a whole.

 It is unfortunate that in modern society, childbirth has become an impersonal, conveyor belt of sorts, divorced from the sacred deeply spiritual experience that it is. I believe that doulas have and will continue to play a significant role in not only improving women's maternal outcomes but also slowly shifting attitudes and perspectives towards birth as a whole.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tips for giving your infant a bath

I was visiting a blog called Spearmint Baby earlier today and watched the most beautiful video of a nurse giving an infant a bath. This particular nurse developed a bathing style she calls the Thalasso baby bath or baby spa. Essentially it mimics the warmth and security of the womb, making the baby feel relaxed and at home.

Here are a few of her tips for bathing your newborn:
1. Don’t bathe a hungry baby. They can’t relax if they’re hungry.
2. Let your hands and heart express themselves.
3. Take your time. Ten to 15 minutes is good.
4. Water getting in your baby’s ears and eyes? It’s OK!
5. Enjoy the experience as much as your baby does.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Journey towards becoming a Doula

This is a post from I shared on my blog last November, but I thought it would be pertinent to share it here as well.

"I finally did it!. I signed up for and took a Doula course in November !. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am  Ever since I became pregnant with Amelia I have been fascinated with pregnancy and birth. It is hard to explain why, but I can't help but read everything I can get my hands on about the subject. I love hearing birth stories. It doesn't matter is they were traumatic, easy, or beautiful. I find each women's experience incredible."  - Jocelyn

A Birth Doula .....
Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
Stays with the woman throughout the labor
Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level
The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. Studies have shown that when Doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
My experience with Doula's

1st Birth

When my pregnancy with Amelia had been confirmed at a local drop in clinic I was referred to a baby clinic in town. While in the waiting room for my first ultrasound (to see how far along I was) I quietly asked the clerk if she knew where I could access midwifery services. Her eyes lit up and she excitedly handed me a phone number for a midwifery office in town. She told me that she highly recommended that route (in a hushed voice) as though she was routing for Pepsi in a coca cola factory. In my third trimester, my midwife and I began discussing my birth plan, and my support network. She highly recommending having a doula. At the time I did not know what a  "doula" was and started to research their  purpose. It didn't take me long to learn how valuable a doula could be. My midwife happened to know of a doula who had just finished her training and could provide her services for free. At our first appointment we talked about the ways that she might be able to support me, my birth preferences and concerns. I remember telling her that I wanted her to help me make calming sounds, instead of screaming like a banshee (as I had often seen on TV). On the morning on March 18th, I woke up feeling  a little crampy at around 6:00 in the morning when Nathaniel's alarm clock went off. I didn't think much of it and went back to sleep until 10:00 or so (those where the days). After a long warm bath, something of which I also rarely indulge in, I set about my regular routines of cleaning, returning emails (while bouncing on my ball) and making stew for dinner. At some point in the day, possibly around 1:30, I realized that I was having consistent contractions. When my husband got home from work and announced that he was probably going to be laid off for a couple of days, I said "that's good because I think I am in labor". We quietly started timing contractions, did some grocery shopping and told my parents that I was in labor. Around 7pm I called my doula to let her know that I was definitely in labor and she hurried over. She arrived just as I was heading into transition and starting to loose my composure. She quickly helped me start breathing and swaying and helped ground me again. When I climbed into the tub she put cool clothes on my head, brought me water and stayed close. After Amelia had been born she stayed behind after the midwives had left and cleaned me up, brought me a meal and helped me with breastfeeding. Her calm presence was incredibly reassuring.
2nd birth

As soon as I knew that I was pregnant with my second child, I started searching for a midwife and a doula. I knew that my chances of having a midwife were slim (due to the fact that we lived in the middle of nowhere), but I hoped that maybe I would be able to find a doula. Thankfully I did! We met once a week in the months leading up to my delivery. We would sit in a cafĂ© and chat about everything related to pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. From the start I knew that she was "in my corner". We shared similar values and she understood my concerns about delivering in the hospital. I already knew how to labor and knew that Nathaniel would be an excellent support, but I didn't know what it was like to labor in a hospital. More than anything I just needed a sound board. I appreciated her the most when I was overdue and was being pressured to have an induction. She researched acupressure methods, herbal remedies and many other natural methods for starting labor naturally. She understood that I DID NOT want an induction and supported me 100%. She prepared emotionally when I had to do a fetal stress test and diagnostic ultrasound. She warned me that the OB that did the procedure had a reputation for guilt tripping women into inductions and  helped me understand my rights in such a situation. She did everything she could to help me get the birth I wanted and gave me every possible resource to help me do so. When I went into labour (on my own) she met up with us in town, did a Starbucks run with me, walked around in the park with me and helped me breath through my contractions. She drove with us to the hospital when I was ready to go,  massaged my back in the minutes leading up to the frenzied birth and then helped get Claire latched shortly afterwards. She visited me often in hospital over the days that followed (out of town patients are expected to stay a minimum of two days) and we spent a great deal of time talking about Claire's birth and my thoughts about how it all went down.

 I would highly encourage anyone who is pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant to consider the value of having a doula present at the birth of your child.  It is a day you will never forget, so you might as well have a great team to support you and make it great!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Beautiful birth photography

Click on this link to see some of the most beautiful birth photography I have EVER seen.  One day I hope that I will be able to capture births and bellies like this photographer.