Thursday, February 24, 2011

The potential importance of a birth doula

I received a question by email asking my opinion about hiring a doula to attend birth. Different women may all have different accounts of their experience and you are all welcome to share yours, however, the following is what I think.

I believe a doula can play a very important part in a woman’s feeling of comfort during labor and birth. In a hospital setting, perhaps the most important part a doula plays is being a sort of buffer between the woman and the medical staff, advocating the woman’s rights to avoid procedures she is not interested in and guarding her privacy.

During my first birth, I was supposed to be attended by a doula in training, who was going to be there with me throughout the birth without any financial reward, as part of her practice. However, I went into labor in the middle of the night and our phone call failed to wake her so we went without her.

In retrospective, I can say that my husband provided all the necessary emotional support during the birth of both our children so far, and took it upon himself to assert to the staff that I’m not interested in an epidural. He also insisted that they wait until my waters break naturally, instead of doing it in an artificial procedure, something I almost consented to simply because I was in that stage when you become too confused to think properly.

However, not all husbands are as knowledgeable as mine is about natural birth, and some become distressed when they see their wives going through labor (for which they cannot be blamed), so it can be highly useful to have someone around who will be supportive without being too emotionally involved.

For Orthodox Jewish women, especially, who can’t have any physical contact with their husbands starting from a certain stage of labor, it might be very important to have a doula for physical measures of support and pain relief, such as massage and reflexology. I was lucky enough to have a volunteer who did that during my first birth. I think that is why the profession of a doula is becoming increasingly popular among Orthodox Jewish women. I recently had the pleasure of discovering that a very sweet lady who lives nearby is a doula. I inquired her about the challenge of always having to be on call, especially during the night, to which she replied with a smile that she loves the night shift best because it enables her to leave while her family is sleeping without having to worry about additional arrangements.

I wouldn’t want anyone from the family, apart from my husband, to accompany me during birth, but some feel comfortable to have their mother, sister or friend with them, and one of them might do the part of a doula. In fact I believe that the contemporary professional doulas have their origin in the past, when birth was a family event and the mother was attended by other women, mostly experienced ones.

On an unrelated note, I’d like to please remind everyone that though I’m doing my best to keep the blog running, my husband is the one who posts for me through his work computer - I have very infrequent access to the internet myself, so while I still read my emails and try to answer all of them, it can easily take weeks for me to even see your message. I love hearing from you, but it might take me a while to reply. Thank you so much for understanding.



4 comments:

Deborah said...

My doula was invaluable to me. My husband and I live abroad, but I had gone home for the birth. When my daughter unexpectedly came a month early, my doula ended up being the only familiar person in the room. I'd only had time to meet with her once, but she knew my preferences and acted accordingly to help me have the birth I wanted (other than the notable absence of my husband, which couldn't be helped at that point). She even tactfully told my mother to leave the room, because I wasn't able to, but she knew that I didn't want any family but my husband there, and in his absence, no family. She was a lifesaver to me!

Anonymous said...

I loved this post, Thank you!

Miss S.

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Thursday's Child said...

I agree with you! I had an epidural with my first son and have no regrets. But it was my choice...no one pushed it on me.

With the twins there was no time. The Little Prince arrived about half an hour after of getting to the hospital. If there had been time I would have chosen one, but as it turned out...I SURVIVED! And I didn't freak out my husband either! Amazing!

The Diva (his twins sister) was emergency c-section so I got to be knocked out for that one. But even if she had arrived in the usual way, I'd still reconsider an epidural if there was a next time.