Birth doulas make a difference

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” — John H. Kennell, MD

If I could do my daughter’s birth all over again – a birth that, because of a pregnancy complication I developed (HELLP syndrome), included numerous interventions – I would have hired a doula. I’d done my birth homework and for some reason I didn’t think I needed one nor could afford one, but as I have since learned, having the right doula at your birth can be worth her weight in gold. I think if I had had a doula present at Ava’s birth, I would have come away from the experience feeling like I had been better informed (we were left in the dark about so many things) and more of an active participant in my labor instead of a passive recipient. But as the saying goes, live and learn. I have learned and now I will share what I’ve learned with you.

Doula (pronounced doo-la) is a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant.” Doulas are trained and experienced in childbirth, though they do not handle the medical aspects of it; those are reserved for a midwife or doctor. The role of a birth doula is to provide support for the woman and her partner during labor and birth. This support may include physical support such as suggesting different positions for laboring, giving massages or instructing the woman’s partner how to massage her, breathing with her, getting food and drinks for the woman and her partner, etc.; emotional support in the form of reassurance and comfort; as well as informational support such as explaining different medical options, risks and benefits, and possibly suggesting natural techniques to achieve the same results. It is often said that a doula mothers the mother.

The ‘Enjoy Birth’ blog has a post called “Get a birth doula” that explains the type of support a doula can offer including:

Resource for Comfort Measures: Having a doula is like having your very own talking birthing guide. Doulas know what can help during birth and how to do it. Your doula can either perform these comfort measures herself, or help your family or friends to support you with comfort measures. Your birth partners will feel more confident knowing that they are doing the right thing.
Constant Encourager: A doula not only encourages the mother to keep going, but she encourages the labor support to keep going as well. The process of labor can sometimes be long. A doula can keep you and your partner focused during the most intense part of labor.
Helps Explain Options: A doula is also a source of information about ways to handle your birth. Medical attendants don’t always have time to get into all the options available, and rarely give all the risks and benefits for the options they do give. A doula can help you understand what options are available, and what the pros and cons are. This can help you make better informed decisions.

There are many benefits to having a doula attend your birth.

Proven Benefits of Doula Care

Decreased medical intervention in labor*:

  • Reduces need for cesarean by 50%
  • Reduces length of labor by 25%
  • Reduces use of artificial oxytocin (pitocin) by 40%
  • Reduces pain medication use by 30%
  • Reduces the need for forceps by 40%
  • Reduces epidural requests by 60%

Six weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were**:

  • Less anxious and depressed
  • Had more confidence with baby
  • More satisfied w/ partner (71% vs 30%)
  • More likely to be breastfeeding (52% vs. 29%)

*These statistics appear in A Doula Makes the Difference by Nugent in Mothering Magazine, March-April 1998.
**Statistics from What is a Doula?

Photo courtesy Tammra McCauley
Photo courtesy Tammra McCauley

I’ve heard countless stories from women I know – both in person and on the Internet – singing the praises of their birth doulas. Every one of them feels their birth experience was more positive as a direct result of the support offered by their doula.

Alma from Chicago Moms Blog reflects on her birth and the help she received from her doula – “her hero” – in her post Not Without My Doula.

“It (labor) was really hard, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my doula, Tricia Fitzgerald. … her dedication and support was worth far more [than] the typical going rate for a doula.

She also squelches the myth that a doula tries to take the place of a woman’s husband or partner.

Doulas don’t monitor or deliver babies; they’re dedicated to mothering the mother, helping her achieve the birth experience she wants. And contrary to what some people think, your doula will not displace your husband. Rather, she just may keep you from cursing out your well-meaning partner who just can’t seem say the right thing or rub you the right way.”

I think it takes a very special kind of woman to be a doula and Leigh, a fairly new doula and mother of two young daughters, is definitely one of those special women. Leigh writes beautifully about each of the births she attends on her blog Mere Mortal Mama and I soak up every one of them. She seems to possess an ancient wisdom that allows her to be extremely in-tune with her clients. She is committed to helping them achieve the birth they desire. Here’s an excerpt from her most recent birth, that of a teen mother:

And then that moment comes; the moment when you notice the slight shift in energy of the room and know it is time to be fully present for your client. I glue myself next to the bedrail and remain over her for the duration of labor. I breathe in deeply with her and exhale slowly, offering the most hushed of encouraging words. We establish a pattern together quickly: we breathe, she cringes and tightens her brow a bit, I press a firm thumb on her forehead and smooth her brows, she relaxes and breathes out. I stroke her hair as the surges release; she lets out a cleansing breath. Our fingers entangle as she rests between the surges.

I whisper breathy words and phrases into her ear and have no idea where they are coming from. Upon speaking some of them, her head nods in barely perceptible understanding – her eyelids fluttering closed – and so I stick with those.

And it is those moments where ego and heart humbly meet, swollen like a balloon about to burst. Two women, in rhythm to the song of labor, swaying into words and sinking into breath; connected through the pulse of birth.

I believe that – “two women … connected through the pulse of labor” – sums up simply and perfectly what the experience of having a doula is meant to be. I think that all women and their partners should consider giving themselves the gift of a doula.

To learn more about doulas, including how to find one in your area and questions to ask when interviewing a doula, see the additional resources below.

Additional resources:
DONA (Doulas of North America) International – Learn more about doulas as well as find doulas in your area
CAPPA: Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association
How to hire a doula – Questions to ask
How Dads/Partners and Doulas can work together to support the birthing mother
Information about Postpartum Doulas who’s role is to help a woman through her postpartum period and to nurture the family

Cross-posted at BlogHer: BlogHers Act

add to sk*rt

Best Shot Monday – 1/21/08 – Waiting for spring

It’s been bitter cold here the past week (the high is only in the teens today) and we all are dreaming of warmer days for playing outside, especially Julian.
Julian gazes out the window - 1/17/08

In the past I’ve had a few people inquire as to how I put the white frame around most of the photos I share online. A few months ago I said that I was going to type up step-by-step instructions and now I’ve finally done it. Sorry it took so long. It’s very simple once you know what to do. :)

How to frame your photos with a border in Photoshop:

  1. Open the image that you want to frame
  2. Go to Select > All (or Control A)
  3. Go to Edit > Stroke
  4. Choose the width of your stroke depending on how thick you want the border to be right next to your picture. I generally use 1 pixel. Then select the color. I use black. For location, use “inside.” For mode, I leave it at “normal.” And opacity, I leave at 100%. Click OK.
  5. Go to Image > Canvas size.
  6. This is where you adjust the width for how wide you want the border to be. You can play with it until you find the size you like best. I prefer to use the same proportions for the width and height, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Select what color you want the canvas extension to be. I usually use white. Click OK.
  7. Go to Select > All again.
  8. Repeat steps 3. and 4. Again, I usually use 1 pixel and black.
  9. Go to Select > Deselect.
  10. Resize image if you like.
  11. Save.
  12. That’s it. You’re done! :)

You can see more from Best Shot Monday participants over at Mother May I.
Best Shot Monday

Green Tip of the Week #9: Drying laundry – don’t overdo it

“Do not over-dry laundry. An electric dryer operating an extra 15 minutes a load can cost you up to $34 a year in wasted energy; a gas dryer, $21 a year. If your dryer has a moisture sensor that turns the machine off automatically when clothes are dry, use it.”*

We don’t have a moisture sensor on our gosh, nearly 10-year-old dryer, so I usually just set it on “very dry” and walk away. After reading about over-drying, however, I experimented with our dryer and put it on one line less than “very dry,” translating into using slightly less drying time. Guess what? The clothes came out just as dry. I plan to keep fiddling with it until I find the lowest amount of time it takes to dry the clothes.

Of course, even better than using a dryer is to air-dry your laundry – something I haven’t jumped on board with just yet. The Natural Mommy has a great post about hanging drying racks** right in your laundry area. I might have to see if the hubby will install one of those for me. If nothing else, it’d be great for the cloth diapers.

*This tip brought to you by: Women Co.’s Green Guide
**This tip brought to you by: The Natural Mommy

Have any green tips you’ve recently learned? Please email them to me and I may include your tip with a link to your site or blog in a future post. :)

A little change makes all the difference

Before Jody got home from work this evening, I was feeling a bit tired and overwhelmed. I knew I needed to get dinner started, but the kids wanted to play on top of the coffee table and I couldn’t very well leave them to do that without supervision. Actually, Ava would have stayed off of it if I asked her to, but Julian, at only 14 months, was another story.

Dissatisfied with the idea of spending the next half-hour removing him from the table every time he climbed up and listening to his cries of frustration as I did so, I considered moving the table to the basement – where all things that we don’t want the kids playing on/with seem to end up. It seemed like too much work to me, so instead I decided to flip the table over – my thoughts being that it would thwart Julian’s climbing efforts and possibly provide something “new” to play with. As both kids eagerly climbed inside, the upside-down table effortlessly transformed into a boat, and then a bed, while I made dinner without interruption (woot!).

The kids walking on “the bridge” 1/18/08

Later tonight, as Ava and Julian walked countless times over the inverted table, I thought to myself what a fine obstacle course it had become for two kids who needed to work off some energy before bed. Ava informed me, however, that it was in fact now a bridge. Who knew that the table that had earlier been the source of my frustration would so easily morph into so many things, be just as much (if not more) fun for the kids, and make me smile instead of frown.

Sometimes a little change in scenery and perspective is all it takes to turn a stressful situation into a great one. :) I’ll have to remember that myself.

What a deal (squeal!)

I’ve happened upon quite a few deals the past couple of weeks and, being the benevolent person that I am, I thought it was only fair to share them with you, my awesome readers. :)

Last weekend Target had baby and toddler winter clothes on clearance from 30-75% off. I stocked up on some clothes for the kids for next winter, including a coat, two pairs of pants, and a jacket for Ava and four shirts and a pair of jeans for Julian. It’s hard to turn down shirts priced at $2-3! We also got $40 off this Baby Trend Sit-n-Stand stroller. From what I could see, many of their strollers were marked down.

Thanks to The Natural Mommy and one of her readers, I learned about Hot ‘n Ready pizzas from Little Caesar’s. You can get a large pizza (cheese or pepperoni) for just $5 any time. You just go in and the pizzas are uh, hot and ready. ;) Pair it with a salad and it makes a quick and cheap dinner on those nights you just don’t have the time or desire to cook. Wonder if they will give me some free pizzas after that glowing endorsement?

Mamanista currently has a contest going on for $100 to spend at Vincent Shoes. Well, I headed over there and was AMAZED at the winter sale they have going on. Several of their boots, shoes and indoor shoes (like slippers) are priced at 50-75% off. I bought four pairs of shoes for the kids yesterday – Dennis and Max for Julian and a pair of each of these Stripe indoor shoes for Ava and Julian – for $37 (plus shipping, it was $47). Not bad at all. By the way, the indoor shoes are perfect for Ava for inside time at her Waldorf preschool. All of the kids have to have a pair of inside shoes to keep at the school. At $6.25/pair, you can’t beat ’em!

Lastly, over a week ago, Steve & Barry’s had a sale going on (and it might still be going on) where everything in the store was just $8.98 (or less). EVERYTHING. I got a pair of Sarah Jessica Parker’s new brand BITTEN jeans and they fit really well. I’m quite smitten with them. In fact, they were the jeans I was wearing when Julian’s yogurt explosion happened. And Jody, who had been rockin’ the two pairs of jeans he was down to and free “work” Google shirts a little too often lately, got two pairs of jeans and two shirts. All five items for just $48.50.

I’m not one to advocate consumer whorism, but if you need the items you might as well get good deals on them, right? ;)