Giving birth is one, if not the most significant life event a woman will experience. The way our labour and birth unfolds is something we will remember for our lifetime.
As recent as 100 years ago 90% of births took place in the home. The woman would have been supported with a sisterhood of friends, neighbours and others in the community who offered a source of social and emotional support (DONA International, 2010).
Whilst midwives and obstetricians are there to ensure the safe delivery of your baby, they are not always available to provide ongoing emotional support for the birthing mother, due to workload and other patients also progressing through labour.
A Doula has been described as “the essential ingredient” by DONA International (2010) where their role is to provide emotional support and assist a woman in coping with the physical and mental demands of labour and early motherhood.
I know from my birth experience that fear produces surges of adrenaline, causing the body to tense up and the mind to enter a state of defeat and panic. This not only makes the sensations we feel more unbearable, but it perpetuates a vicious cycle where we feel disempowered and unable to achieve a natural birth.
A Doula helps women achieve the birth they hope to have and assists in reducing the need for initial interventions, which often create a cascade of further intervention, posing a risk to both the mother and baby.
Since 1998 there has been an increase of 10 per cent of caesarean rates, bringing the rate in 2006 to 28.8 per cent of births in NSW resulting in a caesarean (Centre for Epidemiology and Research, 2006). In Australia, the rate of caesarean section in 2016 was 34% and concurrently, there has been a rise in induction, episiotomy and instrumental vaginal birth (BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 2019).
When used appropriately, interventions in labour can be life-saving procedures when risk factors present. However, routine use, without valid indications, can transform the normal physiological process of childbirth into a medical or surgical procedure (The Journal of Perinatal Education, 2013).
In response to the increasing caesarean-section operation rate and wider concerns about interventions in childbirth, a state-wide forum on caesarean sections was conducted in 2007 by the Maternal and Perinatal Health Priority Taskforce and the NSW Department of Health. Detailed analysis of the forum identified themes for future discussion with the Maternal and Perinatal HPT which included:
The promotion of labour and birth as a normal physiological event.
Providing support to assist women through this natural life event should be of high priority.
The need to minimise fear surrounding childbirth and improve support.
The need to develop programs that provide a mother with continuity of care in the postpartum period.
The importance of consistent and balanced information for women and health care providers regarding vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) and the risks associated with an elective caesarean operation.
Evidence has shown that continuous one-to-one emotional support is associated with improved outcomes for women in labour, with randomized trials demonstrating shortened labour, decreased need for analgesia and decreased caesarean rates (The American College of Nurse-Midwives, 2017).
A Doula helps to empower the woman to create the best possible birth experience available to them and supports new mothers as they adjust in postpartum, where many women are prone to feeling isolated, overwhelmed and anxious. Women during this time may also be navigating a traumatic birth experience in which a lack of support can lead to postnatal depression and anxiety.
Hospital surveys have shown that 80% of new mothers found their length of stay in hospital was adequate, but the interactions with midwives were often rushed due to lack of spare time to provide emotional support (Sati, 2019).
As your Birth and Postpartum Doula, it’s my mission to care and nurture you in this new season of life. I provide holistic care and support that assists with birth preparation, breastfeeding, developing healthy coping strategies and providing education on the importance of bonding and establishing a secure attachment between you and your new baby. I also teach you mindfulness and relaxation techniques to manage stress as well as yoga and pilates exercises to assist in both preparations for labour and birth and recovery in the postpartum period.
Watch this video What is a Doula? by Danielle Brooks for some extra info!
View my Doula Services here.