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What is a Birth Doula?

By Kristi Clements, Registered Massage Therapist, Infant Massage Instructor, & Birth Doula

A woman may chose to use a Birth Doula for any number of reasons, but most women admit to having a lot of fear when it comes to the birth of their baby. This is not surprising when television and film frequently portray child birth as a very sudden and dramatic event. Oftentimes pregnant Mothers are even told frightening stories from well-meaning friends or family. For some, pregnancy can be a lonely and vulnerable time, particularly for a single Mother or when families live at a distance. Doctors do not have the time to answer all of a first time Mom or Dad’s questions so parents can leave their appointments feeling worried or frustrated. One way that families can choose to get more out of their birth experience is to hire a Birth Doula.

You may be asking yourself, “What exactly does a Birth Doula do?” Overall a Birth Doula provides both physical and emotional support during childbirth and in the early post-partum period. They do so by offering continuing information and by working as an advocate for their client's wishes. A good Doula can offer a wealth of tips and advice based on her many experiences. This experience is useful when assisting with the creation of a birth plan. When the big day arrives your Doula will play a strong role in helping you communicate your wishes to the nurses and staff. A Doula can be the extra set of hands you need to cope with the stresses of labour. She can provide massage and suggest positions or other comfort measures. She can give Dad a break or go get ice chips and hot packs. She is there to give reassurance to the couple and allow everyone the freedom to express their emotions as they witness the birth of their new family. Contrary to what most believe a modern Doula is not there to insist on a natural birth. She is there to help the Mother achieve the best possible birthing scenario for her.

*Statistically Doula’s are proven to have dramatic effects on the birthing process. Women who use a Birth Doula are 50% less likely to have a cesarean section. They are also less likely to require the use of Pitocin (a labour inducing drug) and tend to have shorter labours with fewer complications. Afterwards a doula can increase the chances of successful breast feeding and offer advice on post-natal care for both Mom and Baby.

If you ask your family, friends or co-workers you may get a great referral to a trusted Doula in your area. You can also search for your doula on the DONA, CAPPA Canada or DoulaCare websites. But no matter how you locate a doula an interview often quickly determines if she is the right match for you. A good Birth Doula will help you to realize a more enjoyable pregnancy and birth as you welcome your little one to the world.

*From Mothering the Mother by Kennel, Kennel and Klaus


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