What is a doula? Boy do I get this one a lot—especially out in the wilds of Wales. Originally coming from a Greek word meaning servant, a doula is a person who supports a woman & her family through pregnancy. There’s been lots of studies showing that a doula decreases labour time & rates of intervention. But we do so much more than that. Our support includes the antenatal period, the birth and postnatally. The nature of the support is both practical—teaching antenatal classes for example, making food, signposting information and emotional—listening to the fears, expectations and feelings of the mother, father or partner and other family members. It may even be spiritual—providing a space where the birthing mother may be truly seen and heard and be her complete whole self.
In times past women, mothers, sister, aunts, and friends in the community filled this role. But times have changed and we often live far from our support networks. A doula is a person who holds that place of community for the birthing family. My dream is to live in a world where birth is a normal, positive experience. A world where women have confidence in their ability to birth and a place where our lifestyles are so healthy we can’t help but grow healthy babies. I would love to live in a world where, when thing do go wrong, care is a priority. Families bodies & needs are respected and reflected in the care received. I dream of a world where women can choose as many or as few people to attend her birth without any questions asked. I would love to see a time where all births are treated with respect and dignity, no matter the location. That each one is honoured as the truly special time it is—the first time that baby human physically joins their family
The reality is, well honestly– I know we have some work to do to get there yet. But here are a few things I’ve learned over the years doulaing. The first thing is surround yourself with positive images and stories of birth. This means turn off OBEM (one born every minute) and most mainstream TV shows about birth. This isn’t about raising expectations but about honestly opening to the knowledge that this is normal, our bodies are amazing and birth is sacred.
Here’s a few to get you started:
Birth Without Fear: http://birthwithoutfearblog.com
Homebirthers & Hopefuls: http://homebirthersandhopefuls.com
Birthing From Within: http://www.birthingfromwithin.com
Michel Odent: http://www.wombecology.com
Anything by Ina May Gaskin
The next thing is that birth is physical. It is work baby! So stay active while you are pregnant. I’m not saying go run a marathon or anything (you know—unless you are trained to do that kinda thing), and you should always listen to your body—if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. But for the most part, we gotta keep moving while we are pregnant in order to be in reasonable condition not only to give birth, but to recover after wards. And if budget is a problem, well, walking is free baby and you have the added benefit of soaking up some Vitamin D. Here are a few more ideas:
Birth Light: http://www.birthlight.com
Pregnancy Belly Dancing:
On that note, diet is important. There is a lot of variations in recommendations for diet but basically all of them agree that processed food and sugar are simply not good for us. They are also not good for your baby. And I’m not saying replace sugar with chemical sweeteners either. Please don’t do that. At the very least this comes down to treating yourself really well and feeding yourself to the highest standard you can. In addition to antenatal classes, why not take a nutrition class too? If time and money are an issue head over to your local library here are a few good books and health & nutrition while pregnant. They don’t all say the same thing so pick what feelsright for you!
Paul Pitchford: Nutrition: Healing With Whole Foods:
Dr. Gowri Motha: The Gentle Birth Method:
Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Finally get educated. You are not a doctor but you do have responsibility for your own health. This means you should know your rights as far as birth go. It is not your job to dig up evidence for or against specific procedures, but it is worth it to be informed so you can make the best choices for you and baby. You should request evidence for any procedure your doctor is suggesting. Ask for clear risks and benefits for each possible drug/intervention or policy and know that if you don’t want something—you don’t have to have it! More info at these sites:
AIMS: Alliance for the Improvement of Maternity Services
AIMS UK: Association for the Improvement of Maternity Services
Birth Rights UK:
In addition to being a doula, I am also a shiatsu practitioner, flower essence consultant and Reiki Master. I love working subtly and in tune with a person’s whole being. Using these modalities has taught me much about how people create their own health. And to deeply respect the space required to do healing work. The birth space is the same. When I walk into a birthing space, I walk in knowing in my bones that birth is powerful, transformative and possible. At times I may be the only person in the room, who truly believes in the ability of the mother & baby to birth. I feel so honoured that I am invited into this space by families. To see parent’s touching their baby for the first time, the sparkle of the first moment of eye contact—there is nothing like it. And to be a keeper and guardian of that space is such a privilege.
Jess Booth @pocketdoula
 Hodnett ED. Gates S Hofmeyr GJ. SakalaC. Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth. Cochrane Databaseof Systematic Reviews.(3) CD003766, 2003.
Klaus, M., Kennell, J., Klaus, P. Motheringthe Mother.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.