Leah Patara is a birth doula, conscious conception meditation teacher, and creator of sacred spaces. She is also the founder of the Womb Room Collective. Here she explains the difference a doula can make.
By Leah Patara
A birth doula becomes a mother’s confidant, guide, and biggest cheerleader. The support offered by a doula can help a woman step into her power and create a much more positive experience. Doulas are becoming more and more sought after, and the reasons are varied.
A good doula will help a mother feel she is capable of a good pregnancy and birth.
I certainly see that in my clients. Both physically and metaphorically, I hold their hands through the greatest transition in their lives. That support reduces the fear around birth, and replaces it with excitement.
For many women, a birth doula can provide spiritual support that is lacking in western birth practices. We offer ceremonies that support the new mother, like the Blessingway ceremony. This is where the women in the mother’s life come together to honour this sacred rite of passage within her life. The Closing of the Bones ceremony is designed to bring a mother’s spirit back into her body, energising and nurturing her after giving birth. Some women feel maternity care has become too medicalised. They seek some non-medical support, and a continuity of care that traditional maternity care does not offer.
A doula can help a mother plan the birth she wants, and in the moment help her achieve it. Much time is spent discussing the details of the ideal birth. Who would the mother like present? What should the first few minutes of baby’s life look like? Which pain relief options would she prefer? What would she like done with the placenta?
Contingency plans are also discussed, for births that don’t go to plan. I had one mother who had planned a home birth, but the labour wasn’t progressing. She opted to move to a hospital. Upon arrival, the doctor told her she’d need a caesarean, without even examining her. The mother felt she could birth the baby naturally. I was able to encourage her to request an examination, and help her communicate her wishes. The baby’s head was almost crowning and within another two contractions, the baby was birthed vaginally.
Many mothers and couples just want an experienced person to help them navigate a hospital birth. They feel overwhelmed and out of their comfort zones. A birth doula can do just that.
“Soon after birth I will shower the new mother, pop fresh sheets on her bed and put her back to bed. These little touches honour and celebrate the mother’s triumph.”
A doula will often be engaged if a home birth is the goal. I have assisted at many beautiful home births over the years and even had a couple myself. A home birth can be a truly intimate and beautiful experience – much less clinical than a hospital birth. It’s not for everyone, but for those willing and able to home birth, a doula can help make the experience quite magical.
For some women, a past birth was filled with trauma. Maybe an emergency Caesar was required, or a mother felt she wasn’t being listened to. Whatever the reason, a past negative birth experience can result in anxiety about subsequent births. A birth doula can help a mother work through those past issues, empowering her for the birth ahead. We can also help her process a recent birth that didn’t go to plan.
A good doula can also help prepare a partner for the birth. New dads and parents often feel overwhelmed and useless watching their partner giving birth. A doula can guide them to be more supportive and present for the mother. Of course a lot of women don’t have a partner, or close family, and a birth doula can step into that role for the mother.
Immediately post birth
Soon after birth I will shower the new mother, pop fresh sheets on her bed and put her back to bed. Then I’ll give her a cup of bone broth, massage her legs and brush her hair. I’ll often make buckwheat banana pancakes with maple syrup, and feed these to her while she cradles her new baby. As well as replenishing her energy, these little touches honour and celebrate the mother’s triumph. My clients appreciate this kind of care and nurturing.
The support of a birth doula doesn’t end when the baby takes its first breath. Postpartum care is often part of a doula’s offering. She will visit with the mother and baby. She’ll bring nutritional food. And she’ll act as a trusted confidant during those intense and often exhausting few months post birth. I often supply menu plans that help recovery and milk production. We discuss sex after birth, setting boundaries for the first 40 days, and I always teach the new mother and her family about the importance and impact of rest post birth.
It is the continuity of support during labour, birth and after birth that many mothers appreciate the most. The constant person that goes on the journey with them, and knows their story.
Doula vs midwife
A birth doula and midwife play different roles during a birth. The doula is at the birth providing emotional and spiritual support, while the midwife is responsible for the medical needs of the mother and baby. It is the midwife that will conduct examinations and consult with the obstetrician in case of any complications. The roles complement each other, and often a doula and midwife will assist each other during a labour and birth.
Ready to have your mind blown?
Research shows continuous doula support results in:
- 39% decrease in Caesarean sections
- 38% decrease in low AGPAR scores
- 31% increase in birth satisfaction
- 16.9% decrease in anxiety
- 15% increase in spontaneous vaginal birth
- 12.5% decrease in pain
- 10% decrease in pain medication use
- 10% reduction in instrumental birth
- 8.7% increase in initiation of breastfeeding
- A labour shorter by 41 minutes
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