This week I've been doing some thinking. Why didn't I find myself a Doula for River's birth? I've come up with the following reasons:
- I didn't want my husband, my birth partner, to feel undermined
- To be honest, I didn't know enough about the role of a Doula and didn't realise how significant the presence of a Doula can be on your birth experience
- I read a lot about the less people being present at the birth the better
- Doulas are expensive! At the time, we couldn't afford this and I didn't like the thought that giving birth could turn out to be really pricey. *p.s. - I plan to make my Doula services available to all women and will be writing about this more in the future.
What I now know:
1. A Doula never ever replaces your birth partner. They exist to support them to, to compliment them. Often, your husband or partner has never seen a birth before and it can be quite overwhelming for them - having a Doula there, someone they know will be there to help them support their awesome labouring partner, is often incredible peace of mind. Someone to help her birth 'decisions' get realised if their minds go blank from the emotion of the day. A midwife, no matter how brilliant she is at her job, has one primary concern - the health of you and your baby - she/he will not necessarily be attentive to your emotional needs and if you don't have a case-loading midwife, there's also a chance you've never met her before! A Doula is someone to take the pressure away from remembering everything your partner learned in NCT class (!) so they can be a little more free to enjoy the experience and just 'be there' for the mother-to-be. Today, more husbands/partners are an active role in the birth process and Doulas really encourage participation from the partner, offering reassurance if at any time they feel anxious. After all, it's natural to feel some nerves in such a life-changing experience such as labour, but our role, as a team is to keep the mother-to-be as calm and relaxed as possible.
2. Statistically, the presence of a Doula, dramatically increases the mother's chance of having a less medicalised birth, with less intervention and higher satisfaction.
A Cochrane review published in 2012 found that in labours with the continuous presence of a Doula, labouring mothers experience:
- reduced use of pitocin
- decreased rate of interventions during labor
- less need for pain medication and less requests for epidural
- higher satisfaction with birth outcomes
- much lower c-section rate
- higher chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth
- shorter labours.
You can read more about the evidence for Doulas here: http://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/
3. The ONLY thing that matters, is that the mother feels safe, loved and supported. Whether that's "crowdbirthing" or locked alone in the bathroom with just her husband - the midwife, mother and sister banished to the other side of the door, then so be it!
My view is, you can never have enough love and practical help around you, but you'll have a good idea of who will help you to feel calm and who you definitely don't want there. At the end of the day we are mammals and we like to birth in private, warm, dark and quiet spaces so don't be surprised if you instinctively crawl into the corner to give birth away from every one of your audience members when the time comes.
I read an excellent article on this subject yesterday. Here is is: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/30/birth-crowdbirthing
The Cochrane review I mentioned above also compared Doula support to other types of labour support, including support by hospital staff, support of a friend or relative, or partner support and found that doula supported mothers had the best outcomes. This is not to discount the very important role of family and birth partners, but to show that Doulas can provide additional help to a labouring mother.
4. Well...Doulas are expensive. They give many many hours of support, often sleepless nights away from their own family and are on call for your every desire for much of that time. Most importantly though, if a Doula can so probably improve your experience of childbirth and help you and your partner welcome your baby into the world in a more safe and peaceful way, a way that you'll treasure forever, you can see why millions of women hire Doulas.
However, it's my strong opinion that this is a service that all women should have access to - not just the well off. This is why I plan to be, The Affordable Doula, whilst still managing to feed my own baby and hungry husband! Watch this space and soon, I'll reveal how.
I know one thing for sure, I'm searching for my Doula for my second baby already! I can't wait to meet her.