Benefits of Doulas and their impact on healthy birth outcomes


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A year ago yesterday I attended this beautiful birth at the #BirthCenter here in #Winnipeg. It was really hard. This brave woman was so sick with a nasty unrelenting flu. She pushed through her awful symptoms and birthed a beautiful healthy boy. Alongside her were her supportive husband and incredible doula and the midwife team. Wow that was a beautiful birth, just thinking back on it. A whole year has gone by….so crazy. This is a shot I took of doula Ali helping and supporting this gorgeous mama goddess with the first latch. I really revel in these moments – they are so pure and real and fundamental. #birth #birthstories #1yearlater #doula #alisonritchie #sacredpregnancy #postpartum #fresh48 #birthphotography #thisisbirth #birthcenter #birthcentre #canadianmidwives #mb_midwives #supportMBmidwives #midwifery #doulacare #independentdoulas #instinctsofmotherthood #firstlatch #breastfeeding #breastfeed #fedisbest #postpartum #takebackpostpartum #birthbecomesher #womensupportingwomen #stopcensoringmotherhood #normalisebreastfeeding

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Childbirth can be a such a vulnerable and emotional time in a woman’s life. Even if your feeling invincible and ready to rock the incredible experience that is child birth, all Mother’s feel a sense of vulnerability and protectiveness of their young and that they will come into this world alive, healthy and free of complications.

So if I told you that you can:

  1. Reduce your chance of a cesarean by 28%;
  2. Increase your chance of a spontaneous vaginal delivery by 12%;
  3. Reduce the likelihood of pitocin/syntocinon by 31%;
  4. Reduce the likelihood of an epidural or pain relief by 9%;
  5. Reduce your length of labour by 40 minutes;
  6. Make your baby 4 times less likely to have low birth weight;
  7. 2 times less likely to experience birth complications;
  8. A higher chance of high APGAR scores; and
  9. Increase your likely success of breastfeeding…..

You would jump at it right? It would be crazy not to want these types of outcomes. Well your in luck Mama… the way to do this is simple – hire a Doula!

Yep, these are the findings of a 2013 systematic review covering 22 studies of more than 22,000 women. You can access the Cochrane study here. Furthermore, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology concluded in 2008 that out of 41 different types of birth practices, Doula care is amongst the most effective (in fact 1 of only 3 practices to receive an “A” grade).


So what is a Doula and what do these super-doulas do?

A professionally trained and/or certified doula is a key support person for a Mother before, during and after birth. They are trained to provide continuous emotional, physical and informative support based on best practice and outcomes for Mother and baby.

I hate to put the role of a Doula in a nutshell because the support that each Doula can offer is so varied and much of that support goes beyond what words can explain. It’s like outlining the “role” of a Mother will never explain the real impact that a Mother has on her child. So with that in mind, some of the more literal roles of a doula include:

  • Providing antenatal resources and referrals
  • Answering questions about labour and birth
  • Teaching the Mother strategies and techniques to use during labour
  • Facilitating communication between the Mother and other birth professionals
  • Supporting women to make informed decisions and advocate for themselves
  • Physical assistance during labour such as massage and relaxation techniques
  • Providing encouragement and emotional support (this includes support for Dads too!)
  • Maintaining a calm birthing environment
  • Assisting with general tasks such as preparing snacks, drinks and help setting up/tidying the birth area

Should I have a Doula?

It is common for women who have never experienced birth or the care of a Doula to feel uncomfortable about letting another person in on such an intimate time – but please remember that Doulas become Doulas for one reason and one reason only…

Doulas LOVE women. They aren’t there just for cute babies (well maybe a little). They love empowering, supporting and holding space for others. Women lifting other women up is a powerful force and the benefits speak for themselves. 

We all know that our birth choices can greatly determine outcomes for both Mother and baby so being informed and well supported is critical. By having the care of a doula you are setting yourself up for an empowering and positive birth. 

Jump over here to learn how to plan your dream natural birth in 5 easy steps.

Find a Doula in your area:

ACT

Laney Sweet – The Birthing Tree

NSW

Keri Holloway – Mum and Cub

NT

Leisa Masters – Earthside Babe

SA

Kelly – Elemental Beginnings

TAS

Cherie Chugg – Doula Cherie Chugg

VIC

Angela Gallo –Angela Gallo

Julie Bell – Melbourne Doula

QLD

Moran Liviani – 2Life Doula

Peta Tuck – Brisbane Doula

WA

Helena Hentz – Dream Birth 

Vicki Hobbs – Vicki Hobbs

Kristin Beckedahl – BodyWise BirthWise

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How to plan your dream natural birth with these 5 detailed steps

Photo credit: @tracyjonesphoto

Congratulations on your pregnancy and for considering a natural birth! Whether your delivering at home, a family birthing centre or even in hospital – a natural birth is almost always achievable if your armed with the right knowledge, support and determination.

Whether your a first time Mum, had vaginal births before or even going for a VBAC – this 5 step guide will help you reach YOUR unique dreams of a natural birth and its never too late in pregnancy to start!

Unfortuently in many hospitals natural birth is not the norm especially under the care of Obstetricians where there rate of intervention, elective inductions and c-sections are extremely high. In fact the hospital that I delivered my last son in had a cesarean rate of 65%. Thats over 4 times higher than The World Health Organisations guideline of 10% – 15%. Less than half the women in that hospital have a vaginal birth and the amount who have a natural birth would be even less!

Staggering I know – but even if you choose to birth in a hospital it doesn’t mean you need to become one of those statistics.

The power is in your hands. Own your body and own your birth – YOU are in control.

Here is how I beat the odds and achieved my dream natural birth in hospital:

  1. DEFINE & COMMIT

What is a natural birth to you? By definition, a natural birth is a vaginal birth free from medical intervention such as drugs to induce labour or the administration of pain relief. But when planning your dream birth you need to think beyond that. 

Maybe you face a pregnancy complication and genuinely need to be induced but you go on to labour and birth your baby with no pain relief. Even though thats not a “natural” birth by definition, that sounds like an amazing achievement to me! In fact I know first hand that an induced labour is often the hardest. Don’t stress about putting a label on your birth – define what a dream birth looks like to you then work your hardest towards that goal. 

You are a unique individual with your own standards, values and aspirations. Don’t put yourself in a box and work towards someone else’s dreams. Create your own because this is YOUR birth and YOUR precious memories that you will hold forever.

Picture your dream birth in your mind and picture it frequently. How does it start? Where are you? Who is there? How do you labour? How do you birth? What are your limits? What is most important to you?

This may all sound too specific – but by planning your birth with vision and clarity whilst  simultaneously trusting your body and the process, you put yourself in a powerful position to achieve your dreams and goals.

Photo credit: @tracyjonesphoto
  1. CHOOSE YOUR PROVIDER

So, you have mapped out your dream birth and should have a good idea of what type of birth provider and setting you would like to use. It’s time to make some calls, find out who is available and get yourself booked in. Maybe you have chosen a private home birth midwife or are opting for the local family birthing centre. 

Its important to choose a provider you feel comfortable with – so discuss your overall vision with them to make sure they are a good fit. Social media and word of mouth are powerful tools to gain feedback and insight into others birthing experiences. Speak to as many women as you can and don’t be afraid to ask the potential providers questions – remember you are the paying customer and its okay to interview them! 

  1. YOUR BIRTH TEAM

If you had limited choice in choosing a birth provider then this step is probably the most important. It’s where you define what type of support you need and choose who is going to take on that role for you.

Support begins right at the beginning in pregnancy and fizzles out at some point post-partum, and then hopefully evolves to a permanent support team with the new addition of your growing family. But to keep within the scope of this post we are going to focus on finding your team specifically for your labour and delivery.

Here’s some questions to get you thinking. Do you want physical support during labour like someone to rub your back and apply counter pressure? Do you want a partner who is actively involved with the process: to breathe, vocalise and move their body with you through each surge? Do you just want the loving arms of your partner to fall into? The care of your Mother to wipe your face and maybe your tears? Or maybe your the type who needs someone stern – someone to snap you back to the present moment, tell you “you’ve got this” and keep you focused.

The type and level of support needed will be so different for every person. I’ve seen women labour and give birth with literally their whole family in the room. Mum, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, brothers, sisters, best friends.. the whole lot. In fact women are streaming their births live online these days – thriving off the encouragement and support of all their followers. In these Mamas eyes, the more support the better.

On the other hand, many women feel much more relaxed having only a select few with them such as their midwife, a doula and their husband. Some Mums may even feel uncomfortable at the thought of a doula, midwives or other birth professionals being around them during such a precious and vulnerable time.

So there is no one size fits all approach – work out what support you want and don’t let others wishes stand in the way of your own. (Your Mother-in-law wants to be in the birth suite but your not comfortable with that?? Think you have to invite X friend because you are having Y friend? Well sorry – but nope! This is your birth and you call the shots!

  1. BE INFORMED

So now your pretty well set up. You’ve got your place of birth, provider and birth team all set up. You envision your dream natural birth regularly and are feeling pretty empowered and excited at this point in time. Its easy to stay on this level and sail through pregnancy hoping for the best, but sometimes not all goes to plan and this is where you need to be armed with knowledge. Knowledge is power – and with power you remain in control.

Its time to crack down and get into the serious stuff. This step is all about research, research, research! Depending on your experience this task may seem huge and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be, take it day by day, gradually building up your knowledge as your pregnancy moves along.

One of the easiest ways to learn is to surround yourself in a learning environment. For example if you spend a lot of time on Facebook, join some evidence based natural birthing groups so your news feed becomes full of interesting topics and discussion that you can engage in. Or as you progress through each trimester, when questions pop into mind don’t let them drift away. Instead write them down to ask your provider or seek out a reliable blog, study or book to get yourself the answers.

Further to this its a good idea to enrol in a birthing course or to work with your midwife/doula to learn the necessary skills to help you on the day. This includes natural pain relief and breathing techniques, positive thinking and affirmations, positions to labour and birth in and learning about the physiological birthing process so you can trust in your body’s ability.

To make good decisions you need to be well informed. Being well informed comes from immersing yourself in constant learning to widen and deepen your knowledge.

Warning – this is how many women (myself included) become pregnancy and birth obsessed.. by learning about the capability of divine miracle that is our body. This is a good thing, by the way!

  1. COMMIT AS A TEAM

You have done a hell of a lot of work now and it’s time to make sure the rest of your team is up to scratch. Birth is entirely dependent on the Mother, but having your birth team on your level will give you the best chance of success to achieve your dream natural birth where you feel empowered and supported.

If your husband or partner doesn’t know much about birth, or what to expect, or how to help (which understandably most don’t) then it’s time that they too start learning about the process, your needs and most importantly how they can be the best support person they can.

For each person on your team I want you to do the following:

  1. Make sure they are well informed. For your midwife and doula this should be a given. For partners, parents or friends that are in your team – make sure they are on board with your vision and understand the importance of your natural birth goals.
  2. Define their roles. Do you want your husband to be your main support with your doula stepping in when she see’s you struggling or your husband needing a break? Or do you want her right by your side helping you through each and every surge and offering physical support? Do you want your friend to be in charge of bringing you snacks, topping up your water, getting you cold towels or minding your children in the next room? Of course you can change your mind on the day and your support team will know how to adjust to suit your needs. But do not be afraid to get specific and assign your birth team certain tasks and give them a general idea of how they can best support you.

At this stage many new Mums like to create birth plans or wishes, which in my opinion is always a great idea. Talk through your birth wishes with your team and ensure everyone is on board. You may pick a particular person such as your husband or doula to be your main advocate and point of contact should things not go to plan and decisions need to be made. This is why knowledge is so important – so informed consent can be made.

This is also a good person to go through your limits with. It is often very hard for partners to see you in such pain and say “no” to you if you say you give up and want an epidural. Don’t leave this to labour – talk about it early and tell them clearly how you want them to handle this type of situation. With my last birth I told my husband that “I 100% under no circumstances want an epidural, even if I ask for it, I do not mean it. I will regret it. Redirect me and help me in other ways.” You may want to say something similar, or if your more open to pain relief you could have a safe word with him so he know’s your dead serious. But you CAN birth drug free and with the right preparations I am confident you WILL!

With these 5 steps you are in the best position you can be for your natural dream birth.

Never stop dreaming about that upcoming day and don’t once doubt your capabilities. You are a powerful and fierce woman empowered by a strong supportive team. Your body is a miracle that has spent 9 months gearing up for this moment.

Mama you CAN and you WILL!

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