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What the Heck is a Doula?

Doulas have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Unfortunately with the introduction of modern medicine, the tradition of having a supportive woman attend your birth has been lost. “Doula” is greek for “a woman who serves”. Traditionally women of the extended family or women in the community would gather together at a birth to provide emotional support the the labouring woman. In today’s world, family is spread out all over the globe, and having all of your female neighbours attend your birth is rather frightening! A modern day doula is a woman who has been trained to provide emotional, physical and informational support to both mom and her partner, prior to, during and after labour. It is not the doulas role to replace the partner, rather to compliment and enhance their experience.

“My husband (partner) is my left hand and my doula is my right.” – from Doulas Making a Difference

Countless studies show that having a doula present during a woman’s labour results in a substantial reduction in interventions and complications.

  • 50% reduction in caesarean sections
  • 60% reduction of epidurals
  • 30% reduction of use of forceps
  • 24% reduction in the length of labour
  • 40% reduction in use of oxytocin
  • 40% reduction in use of pain meds

How does a doula accomplish all of this you ask? By educating their clients about what to expect during labour, common problems that arise, tests that need to be preformed, and interventions that may be used the expecting couple is able to form a birth plan that suits their needs. The doula then acts as a voice for the couple. It is good to have a birth plan, however it is also important to know that there will be bumps along the road and that plan may have to change. A doula also provides natural pain reduction by counselling the mother about her fears, teaching the mother breathing techniques, using aromatherapy, massage, and suggesting other techniques learned through her training. Having a doula who is also a naturopathic doctor provides the added benefit of using acupuncture to stimulate contractions, teas to tonify the uterus, homeopathy to induce labour and cope with emotional distress, and topical creams to aid in healing. During the post partum period a doula helps mom with breastfeeding and continues to provide emotional support. Bringing baby home can be a difficult transition, but having a doula there to help makes the transition easier.

Commonly asked questions:

What about my partner?
Major changes are taking place in the dynamics of a birthing couple. Husbands and partners are starting to take a more active role in the whole process. However, some may feel that this is a huge expectation and would rather enjoy the experience than have the pressure of trying to remember everything they learnt in childbirth education classes or pregnancy books they read. Having a doula as part of your birth team allows the partner to participate in a way that makes him/her feel comfortable. The partner can be the main source of support, the doula can be the main source of support, or the doula can teach the partner how to be involved in the process. It is the doula’s job to meet the partner where he or she is when it comes to their fears, and expectations of the delivery. Even though they are not the ones physically delivering the child, they are still a large part of the experience.

What if I want an epidural or a hospital birth?
I will support you in what ever you choose. If you want an epidural, I will support you. If you want to transfer from your home birth to a hospital, I will support you. If you choose to have an OB, I will also support you. This is your birth so you make the decisions. It is not my job to judge your decisions, rather to ensure the experience is satisfying to you and a positive memory you will cherish for years.

Can a doula support me if I require a Cesarean section?
If you require a c-section, usually only one person is allowed with you in the operating room. Normally, most women choose their partner to accompany them. The decision is up to you. While you are in the operating room, your doula can update your family, replenish food and drink for everyone, or watch older siblings. Post-surgery, the key role of the doula is to provide emotional support. Any surgery can cause emotional distress for the mother and her partner. Having a doula who is also a naturopathic doctor widens the scope of practice to include the use of natural remedies to aid in healing and recovery. It is important to remember that a c-section, even if unplanned, can still be wonderful experience.

What if I can’t afford a doula?                                                                                                                                                                                                           It is my belief that every woman deserves to have a doula at her birth. While I have set fees for my services, I am willing to make exceptions and provide a sliding scale, just ask!

I hope by reading this I have convinced you of the importance of having a doula at your birth. As a doula and naturopathic doctor I have attended births of all kinds. It is an honour to be part of a birth experience and I cherish each and every one. It is my passion to work with expecting mothers, to empower them to take charge of their bodies, and to help them have the best birth possible.

If you have any other questions or are interested in learning more about my birthing services please call me at: 705-755-0321 or go to my website: www.peterboroughnaturopath.ca