“A Friend During Childbirth”

Title: “A Friend During Childbirth”


From her years as an obstetrician-technician, Brenda realized that mothers in labor could benefit from having the same person stay with them throughout the experience.


“A Friend During Childbirth” From her years as an obstetrician-technician, Brenda realized that mothers in labor could benefit from having the same person stay with them throughout the experience.  The medical staff was limited, Brenda observed, because of shift changes and the need to serve multiple patients. And as much as fathers tried to be supportive, she knew that having someone nearby familiar with medical procedures — but not emotionally involved in the situation — would be of greater benefit.  So when Brenda, learned that birth doulas are trained to be that support system, she eagerly went through the certification process. (”Doula,” pronounced DOO-la, comes from an ancient Greek term referring to a woman’s knowledgeable companion.)  To become certified, birth doulas attend training workshops, complete required reading materials and provide emotional and physical support to mothers in at least three births. Trained doulas have participated in the required training workshops but are not yet certified.  Brenda said her experience as an obstetrician-technician, from 1979 to 1986, acquainted her with the medical technology of working as a doula, but medical training is not required.  Doulas do not assist with the baby’s delivery but provide emotional support, information to help parents make informed choices and suggestions on how to keep labor progressing or how to keep the mother relaxed and focused. “Women need a lot of emotional support during that time,” Brenda said.  “Husbands, they can give some, but it’s different than what an outsider, a doula, can do for them.” Pam of Louisville agrees. She had a doula assist with the natural childbirth of both her children, ages 4 and 8 months. “Your spouse tries to be a coach, but that’s a lot of pressure on a spouse,” Pam said.  She said they also wanted a doula because neither she nor her husband’s parents live nearby. “It’s good to have someone other than your spouse there cheering for you,” Pam said.  Brenda said that increasingly her clients are choosing to labor longer at home with a doula because they do not want to be continually monitored or spend too much time in the hospital. Doulas are trained to observe when a woman is going into transitional labor so as to make a timely trip to the hospital for the delivery.

Well before the birth, Doulas work with the expectant parents and the mother’s physician to create a birth plan. She is then available for any questions the parents may have up to the birth.  Once the woman goes into labor, a Doula stays with the mother until the baby is born. She makes a postpartum visit several days later to check on the mother and baby. One thing Brenda said she particularly likes about being a doula is being with the parents throughout the labor and delivery, whether it be three hours or 36 hours.  A doula is “there continuously throughout the birth — unless it’s an extremely long birth, and then we may have a backup,” Brenda said. “That’s so important for the client to know there’s a support system there.” Doulas also helped the father-to-be by easing fears or suggesting how he might comfort the mother during labor, such as providing a back rub, Brenda said. Stephanie and Brent also found having a doula encouraging when Stephanie, 25, had her first baby last week. Brent said the couple decided on having a doula after researching natural childbirth and Lamaze.  After the birth of their son, Elliott, Mark, 30, said the Doula helped his wife through periods of “self doubt” during labor.  “If I’d have been the only person there saying, ‘You can do this,’ I don’t know if she could have” continued to labor without anesthesia, he said. “Having someone there who’s been there . . . who’s been through it a thousand times” provided the necessary encouragement and “helped refocus her.”




Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of The Federation of Antenatal Educators (FEDANT) unless specifically stated.

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