I am so excited to share that I’m becoming a doula. A doula is female caregiver that provides a laboring mother and her husband/partner with continuous, nonjudgmental emotional and physical support throughout the entire labor and delivery. I have been fascinated with birth throughout much of my life, even having the opportunity to experience the birth of my cousin when I was only 15 years old. (Talk about effective birth control!)
Since I have become a personal trainer and fitness instructor almost two decades ago, I have worked with countless women who wanted to continue to exercise while pregnant. But my real interest in pregnancy expanded when I took a pre-natal yoga teacher training in 2012 to gain knowledge and experience how to teach yoga safely to these women. So becoming a doula feels like a natural progression of this evolution. Of course, I still have the intention of teaching yoga and training, but this does add a beautiful new direction to my career.
Here’s the thing. The most predictable thing about birth is unpredictability. Variations are inherent in childbirth because each human being and labor is unique. Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and support provided by partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences. That is where a doula comes in.
Basically, a doula is a trained and experienced labor assistant usually hired by the pregnant couple, although some hospitals offer volunteer doulas free or charge. Doulas are not doctors, nurses or midwives and are not trained to make any medical decision, deliver babies or perform procedures; however, they are full of knowledge about the birth process. They are familiar with interventions and can answer many questions the expectant parents have. The doula offers this information objectively, weighing the pros and cons of every decision and in a way, acts as a intermediary between the parents, doctors and nursing staff.
In addition, a doula is a birth coach. She is a woman who mothers the mother and must have the qualities of being gentle, sensitive and nurturing. She creates emotional “holding” where her deep wisdom, comfort and encouragement help the mom calmly and skillfully cope with labor. She offers her constant presence and personal attention without being obtrusive. A doula may coach a mother with breathing, relaxation techniques, movement, massage and positioning. She can also make sure the woman is well hydrated by offering fluids in between contractions. She can even take photos or videos if the parents want. But most of all, the doula tries to facilitate a positive birth experience so the mother will remember it as something empowering.
The presence of a doula also takes pressure off father so he can fully be present with the mom to enjoy the experience. Usually, it is difficult for partners to remain calm, objective and removed from the mother’s pain, fears and discomfort. Through the doula’s support, the partner can instead focus on his care, love, attention for the mother while helping, participating and being useful and active. Some expectant parents are reluctant to use a doula because they fear she will take over the father’s role. However, this isn’t the case. Everyone works together as a team with the main focus on the mother. A doula helps a father be less anxious and reminds him of what is natural and normal in the birthing process. Thus, the father feels relieved and can therefore be more relaxed, loving and emotionally available. Doulas help keep both parents calm and acts as the bind that holds it all together.
There are several studies that have proven the support of a doula has a positive effect on the entire labor and delivery process by allowing for an easier, shorter birth that has fewer complications. The most incredible statistics is that doulas help to cut labor time by up to 50%!!!! Having a doula also reduces routine interventions and procedures like C-sections, analgesia use, augmentation drugs and epidural use. In addition, moms who work with doulas have greater satisfaction with childbirth, fewer incidences of postpartum depression, increased self-esteem, better mother and infant interaction and improved breastfeeding success. Overall, doula-supported women are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics.
My training program takes place this month at Birth Day Presence through DONA, or Doula Organization of North America. DONA believes in the importance of consistent, continuous support throughout labor and in respecting the couple no matter how they choose to birth. It is an extensive process, one that includes 5 required reading books, a three day intensive class, and a mandatory attendance to 4 births. The focus is on physical, emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. My first birth is scheduled this April and I am so excited to participating in such a extraordinary experience.
Back in the day, women gave birth surrounded by other supportive women that gave constant care, love and knowledge. Today, our society does not include this idea of a community as part of the process which has become overly medicalized and extremely clinical. Hospitals can offer great care, especially for high risk women, but often the mother’s emotional needs go ignored. As a result, many women feeling isolated, traumatized and misunderstood after birth. A doula fills that gap and provides the care that assists in the best birth experience a mother can have according to her own vision. The doula-mother relationship will be unique and beautiful, not to mention extremely empowering.
Because I am already a coach, motivator and cheerleader in my career, I feel that taking on this role will challenge me in a new way and gently force me to expand in my ability to be present, kind, compassionate and caring. I truly believe that each woman needs to birth how she feels is best for her and her family in a supported and loving environment. The experience of birth has a deep, lasting and meaningful effect on a woman, and the doula is there to help ensure that it is satisfying and smooth as possible.
So excited and thankful for this new chapter.
If you have any questions or interested in allowing me to be your doula,
please feel free to contact me!