You should feel empowered when. you give birth. You should feel like your voice is heard - even without having to speak up in the moment.
Having a doula support you at your birth is a great way to raise your confidence, comfort and overall satisfaction with your birth, while reducing the need for medical interventions. This is confirmed by the research (read below)!
WHAT IS A NATUROPATHIC BIRTH DOULA?
Let me first define a birth doula:
a non-medical support person for the birth mother (and partners too!) who provides continuous support during labour and birth - physical, emotional and informational as well as helping you better advocate for yourself in a medical setting!
typically trained with an accredited organization;
often provides some support prenatally to help the new parent(s) prepare for birth - including reviewing decisions that may arise in labour and birth and the preparation of a birth plan unique to each person's preferences, in any situation
A Naturopathic birth doula:
provides all of the support described above - and remains NON-MEDICAL support at your birth
must first be a naturopathic doctor (a doctoral degree requiring 4 years of postgraduate training) - meaning that services are covered by many insurance plans and can include various naturopathic modalities in labour, such as acupuncture, homeopathic medicine and herbal medicines, as needed
provides naturopathic prenatal support in addition to preparation of a birth plan, which may include recommendations of specific herbs and supplements, including dosing - considering your unique health conditions
provides naturopathic postpartum support to review common concerns such as healing your perineum (or c-section scar), breastfeeding and milk production/breast pain
can provide additional naturopathic services as required, such as weekly acupuncture to prepare your body for birth in the last month of your pregnancy, or additional follow-ups for any pregnancy or postpartum concerns that arise
LEARNING TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF
This is such an important role that only you can play. But your doula will help you to understand your rights, provide tips on how to respond to your care provider and elicit the information you need to make informed decisions in real time.
Medical caregivers are always required to obtain "informed consent" from their patient. You have the right to ask questions to help you understand any action your care provider proposes - like:
what are the risks of that action?
what alternatives do I have?
what are the risks of waiting a few minutes or pursuing an alternative?
is it possible to get a second opinion?
can I take a minute to consider my options in private/with my partner?
Your doula will help you review in advance some of the options/decisons that may come up in your birth so you can think about them in advance. This process is flexible - you can always change your mind in the moment, as needed.
RESEARCH: BENEFITS OF A BIRTH DOULA
less anxiety in birth
lower average pain scores
less likely to be dissatisfied with their childbirth experience (*given 1 in 4 women in the US believe their births are traumatic, this is of major importance!)
more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births (without induction)
less likely to have medical interventions: pain medication, epidurals, vacuum or forceps-assisted births,
less likely to have a Cesarean-section
shorter labour by about 40 minutes
higher 5-minute APGAR scores in newborns
Sources: 2017 Cochrane Review; Ravangard et al. 2017
THEORY: WHY A DOULA HELPS
There are a few different published theories on why we see such great benefits from having a birth companion in addition to your partner or medical caregiver:
"harsh environment" buffer - as developed nations have moved the birth experience mostly out of the home and into hospitals with bright lights, sterile rooms, limited comforts and additional pokes/prods/needles, mothers are subject to new environments where they would not likely feel comfortable even if they weren't in labour. Layer in the theory of how fear and pain create a negative feedback cycle and you have a perfect storm for an unpleasant birth environment to overcome - luckily it seems that this is "buffered" by having the physical, emotional, and informational support offered by a doula.
doula as the "pain relief" - the doula themselves can in effect become the medicine - and in randomized trials less pain medication has been sought by women who were assigned to doula support than those without. Perhaps this is because a doula may help reduce some of the fear that can promote an increased sensitivity to and perception of pain. Benefits of avoiding an eipdural are that mother is more likely to avoid a cascade of interventions that frequently follow - including pitocin and continuous electronic fetal monitoring.
oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) produced from the birthing mother's attachment to the doula - a continuous, reliable and responsive presence throughout the labour and birth. Oxytocin is released during soothing touch and extended eye contact provided by the doula.
No content in this post is intended as medical advice.
Please reach out if you are interested in booking a complimentary appointment to learn more about whether having a doula is right for you.
Dr. Natalie Senst, ND & Naturopathic Doula