When I began working with women and children as a naturopathic medical student, I decided to become a doula when the connection between childbirth and trauma became a common thread among my patients and friends. It angered me to hear stories where these two seemingly opposite themes came together in a woman’s experience. And it inspired me to hear of colleagues who had become doulas and were supporting other women to have the kinds of birthing experiences they wanted and deserved.
As a naturopathic doctor, I’m trained to see your health holistically, in the context of the many influences on health both in the present and past. Your health history predates your birth, (in fact your health history predates your conception!..but I only learned that years later). The conditions of your birth can have long-term impacts on your physical and emotional health.
Why Birth Stories Matter
- Babies born by C-section have an increased risk of developing allergies, asthma and eczema in childhood.
- Mothers who have C-section deliveries may develop infections, experience chronic pain, or have problems with breastfeeding.
- Forceps delivery can create bruising and alter patterning of bones of a baby’s skull.
- Mothers who experience birth-related trauma (physical or emotional) may be at increased risk of postnatal depression, may have difficulties with anxiety, bonding with baby, or suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
As you might imagine, some birth stories involve women having their power, personal control and privacy taken away from them at one of the most vulnerable (yet also strong) times in their lives. Sometimes, interventions including Cesarean births are absolutely necessary. In other cases, interventions follow interventions in cascades that may be preventable, if we can support women in preparing for their births, managing pain, and understanding their options from the outset.
What Do Doulas Do?
That was when I first learned what a doula was. A “mother to the mother”, a doula is a woman outside of a birthing mother’s social circle who supports her continuously during childbirth. I was impressed by the research that showed couples unanimously feeling satisfied with their birthing experiences (whether or not they had natural deliveries or C-sections) when they had a doula present. Additional research has been published in the past few years showing substantial reductions in the risk of a C-section when a birthing mother has the support of a doula.
I think we can all appreciate that having a doula could help women feel more comfortable, advocated for, supported and less afraid. But why would doula support be so beneficial to birth outcomes? i.e. C-sections and overall safety and wellbeing of mother and baby?
Having a doula present at your birth is believed to help you increase feelings of personal control and comfort, which in turn aids natural and normal birthing physiology.
In this video, I explain about why the presence of a doula can help mothers birth their babies safely.
The Support of A Birth Doula Can:
- Increase the likelihood of a vaginal birth, without medical induction
- Reduce the odds of nonindicated C-section by 80-90%
- Reduce the odds of having an epidural by 22%
- Promote improved oxygenation response in baby and mother when an epidural is used
- Shorten duration of labour
- Decrease risk of perineal tearing and decrease pain during and after labour
- Promote higher infant APGAR scores
- Decrease the rate of C-section and forceps deliveries
It’s important to me that women feel supported and satisfied with their birth experiences. Doula support means that someone is there to advocate for your preferences, keep you nourished and hydrated, remind you of your coping strategies, and give your partner a few minutes to rest or grab a snack (and not leave you on your own).
The main goal is that you as a birthing mother get to feel empowered and respected at your birth whether you’re at home, in a hospital or birthing centre, and whether accompanied by midwives or physicians.
Doulas in Guelph
We’re proud to be a part of an incredible network of birth doulas in our community. Check out the Guelph community of doulas on Facebook. We’d love to see you there!
Dr. Antoinette and I always welcome your questions. Feel free to give us a call and ask any questions you may have about preparing for a healthy, safe birth.
Your insurance may cover Doula services when provided by a Naturopathic Doctor. Please consult your individual provider for coverage details.