Childbirth is a natural process; it goes on every day without the intervention of modern medicine. Before there were trained doctors to deliver babies, and even after, midwifes and other mothers would meet together when one of their community went into labor. Woman down through the ages would gather together in the birthing room and care for the laboring mother. They surrounded the bed, taking turns wiping her brow and speaking soothing and comforting words. And there they stayed until the babe was delivered, cleaned, and suckling his mother’s breast for the very first time. When doctors came along, these supporting women would still be on the scene to comfort and encourage the laboring mothers. It makes sense that the the word for these women, “doula,” means “women’s servant.”
Since times have become more modern, “trained” medical staff – nurses and technicians—have replaced our first labor and birthing comforters for the most part. But times are starting to revert, in part, to our roots. Midwifes and doulas are becoming more popular in home births, and even in the hospitals and freestanding birthing centers. They have brought the laboring mothers a higher level of comfort and confidence, which in turn reduces the need for interventions in labor and delivery.
Studies have shown that in low-risk births where a doula is present, the need for caesarian delivery is greatly reduced. The use of epidural anesthesia was also reduced. The statistics noted here are from just one research group. Other studies have noted a lower need for Pitocin to induce or speed up labor progress, plus a lower need for episiotomies, forceps deliveries, and other medical interventions during labor and delivery.
I know a mother who had a doula present during more than one risky birth. Together the mother and her doula, along with her husband and their midwife, were able to have those “at risk” children in their ideal birthing location – at home – with no medical interventions. This may not be ideal for some (or possibly for most), but it has worked for my friends more than once—and they have nine beautiful children.
My own birth experiences would have been much better had I know I could have a doula present throughout my labor and birth. I labored for over a day and was left alone in my room at many times. The OB (who was not my regular doctor) elected to perform a C-section when my labor did not progress and my daughter began to show signs of distress. Finally, I was given codeine, which I am allergic to, during my recovery. All in all, what should have been a three-day hospital stay turned into five.
If a doula had been involved in my daughter’s birth, I know that things would have gone better. First, I would not have been in that room all alone. I would have had her with me from when I first thought I was in labor and all the way to the operating room (at that time daddies weren’t even allowed in to view C-section births). My doula would have also encouraged me to change positions to allow my body to progress through labor more efficiently. She may have turned an emergency C-section birth into a more natural delivery. She would also have known my drug allergies and may have been able to prevent my being given something I was allergic to, thus shortening our hospital stay.
The greatest reason for the continuous support by a doula during labor and birth is to “mother the mothers” (and their husbands) through their labor and birthing experience— to see that it is a day that they look back on with joy their whole lives. I am convinced that women serving women in this way is a must, not just to lower the statistics of medical interventions in childbirth, but to help families experience their birthing process and newborn babe’s welcome into the world in a more natural and comforting setting, whether in the home or in the hospital.
©2011 Off the Grid News