Thursday, December 15, 2011

What is a DOULA?

Well, this year I decided to follow through with a desire that I've had for years. I decided to pursue becoming a doula.

I wanted to become a doula ever since my children were little but I had no time for it. Well, now our kids are a lot older and can function well on their own occasionally. So this year I decided to take the DONA certification class to become a doula!

More and more people are employing doula's at their births because of several reasons. First, women want to have the best experience possible at their birth because a lot of people only have one or two tries at this. Giving birth is one of the biggest experiences of a woman's life and she wants it to be a positive one. Second, due to studies that have shown that cesarean rates are cut by 50% and epidural use by 60% when a doula is present, insurance companies are much more interested in paying part, if not all of the doula's fee. (Saves them thousands.) Third, more and more woman with the support of the medical community are learning that natural birth is the very best option for both mother and baby for long term recovery both physically and emotionally. (Baring special circumstances of course.)

So what is a doula? A lot of people have never heard the word 'doula' before. They have been around for centuries but not know much about in our society until more recently. The word 'doula' is Greek for 'woman servant'. She is a special kind of helper associated with childbirth. She doesn't deliver babies or do medical stuff but she helps the mother in other ways. It is hard work being in labor and having a calm, soothing person with you helps you to stay focused and cope with the experience better. A doula not only helps the mother stay focused emotionally but helps her labor. Some of the duties of a doula include; suggesting positions and changes to help labor progress, breath with the mother and help her focus during contractions, give massage, find pillows and blankets for comfort, help keep the atmosphere in the room calm and peaceful, hold her hand and remind how well she is doing, help her and her family understand the process and what is happening to her, help her communicate with hospital staff, keep her hydrated and cool/warm, encourage nursing when the baby is born, help her and her family process the birth.

I had my first birth as a doula this last week and I did all those things with the mother. She did beautifully and labored long but went all the way without pain meds. Baby did great and was born after a 24 hour labor, healthy and strong. This woman's goals were accomplished!

Does this mean that if you have a doula you can't have pain meds or anything? Absolutely not! It's not about being superwoman and having a natural birth at all costs. It's about having the very best possible experience and having peace about every decision made that day. A lot of woman want to try to go 'as long as possible' but often get easily coerced into an epidural with the first suggestion. The goal is having someone help a mother think through the decision, make sure she is well informed and then support her in whatever the decision is. It never means a woman 'fails' if she gets an epidural or ends up with a cesarean. It's all about the experience.

For me, to serve a woman in one of the most amazing times in her life, then getting to witness a new life come into the world is beyond words! I'm looking forward to being a part of future births and hopefully helping mothers have a positive experience regardless of the circumstances.