Chanelmama blogger Ouiam Charkani El Hassani explains the role of this most traditional of birthing partners.
I remember how my grandmother used to tell me how she gave birth to her three daughters, many years ago, in the comfort of her own home, in the presence of her own mother, and the most knowledgeable women in the neighbourhood. How they held her hand and explained to her what was going on and how the baby was making her way into the world.
She also told me stories about how all three babies were placed on her chest to be breastfed, moments after they were born. Meals were prepared and brought to her bedroom for the whole duration of 40 days after giving birth. And different women would take turns in helping her with the baby, at night and during the day. How she was looked after by women just like her. How she had a strong support system in the absence of science and scientists in white robes (aka doctors).
Childbirth then was regarded as a normality, as the most natural event that could ever occur in a woman’s life. Women were prepared to care for birthing mamas; they were raised this way. Childbirth was an opportunity for women to connect and show all the support and encouragement they could for each other.
Of course, then, women also died in childbirth, many babies didn’t make it through their first weeks, days, hours of life, due to the poor or nonexistent medical resources, which is very unfortunate, sad and heartbreaking; however, the women who made it safely (and they were many) still had a natural, beautiful experience with a whole birthing village at their feet.
The question is: where is this birthing village NOW?
I don’t mean nurses hooking you up to machines, telling you what to do and what not to do; strapping you to a bed and letting your body work against gravity, or doctors who don’t even have five minutes to answer the questions of a confused, worried first-time mama. I mean women like me and you, who have been there and done that, who will hold your hand, who believe in your amazing body and how it knows exactly how to bring this most precious little person to life, who will prepare food for you, and bring it to your bed, who will tend to every need of yours?
If you think this doesn’t exist anymore, think again and let me introduce you to the job of a doula. The word doula is Greek, meaning women’s servant. It is derived from how women have been serving others in childbirth for many centuries, and have proven that support from another woman during pregnancy, and labour, has a positive impact on the process.
A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labour or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.
Doulas provide the birthing mama with all the knowledge she needs to know about her body, and her choices, in order to make the best decisions about her own birthing experience. They guide the expectant mother and her partner through labour, suggesting techniques such as breathing, relaxation techniques, movement and positioning (positioning is important both with and without epidurals).
Doulas help parents to-be, find evidence-based information about different options in pregnancy and childbirth. They also help explain medical procedures before or as they occur; they help the partner understand what’s going on with their loved one’s labour.
Doulas are the birthing village of our time — they are there to help women have the miraculous, peaceful and unforgettable childbirth they deserve.
Recent studies have shown that whenever doulas were present, there was a:
• 31 per cent decrease in the use of Pitocin (induction medication) during labour/childbirth;
• 28 per cent decrease in the risk of Caesarean;
• 12 per cent increase increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous natural birth;
• Nine per cent decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief;
• 14 per cent decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery;
• 34 per cent decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience.
If you live in Bahrain, you are pregnant and you are wondering how to find one of those doulas, Rainbows & Unicorns Doula Services is here for you — with a doula certified from Canada (me), ready to offer you all the support you need to make your pregnancy and labour the most pleasurable experience.