Doulas Provide Continuous Support for Childbirth



Ashley Barnes

Ask a dozen mothers what their experiences of childbirth were like, and while the answers will vary, they will all be detailed, woven in emotion and punctuated by memories of medical interventions and staff. In fact, women often remember the day they became a mother more vividly than they do their wedding day.

"Because the experience of childbirth is so monumental, women deserve support that is continuous, compassionate and knowledgeable, to make the experience not just a memorable one, but also a positive one," says Ashley Barnes, co-owner of Pensacola Birth Services. As certified doulas, Barnes and co-owner Evangeline Schepper provide informational, physical and emotional support throughout pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood.

The word doula comes from the Greek word meaning "a woman who serves" or "handmaiden," Barnes notes. "Women have been supporting each other through childbirth in various ways throughout history and across cultures. However, the concept of the doula has only recently been studied and encouraged."

A doula plays a different role than a friend, family member or medical worker might, as doulas are professionally specifically trained to support women through childbirth.

Certified doulas provide informational, physical and emotional support throughout pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood.

"The doula is often the only form of support that is there from early in pregnancy, the entire duration of the labor and into the immediate and extended postpartum period," Schepper says. "Doulas are an unbiased guide—lending a listening ear, validating feelings and concerns, providing evidence-based research and facilitating a referral network with many perinatal professionals."

Through comprehensive prenatal visits, the doula becomes fully versed in the mom’s and partner’s birth preferences and concerns and helps create a detailed birth wish list to encourage collaboration between the mom and her care provider. During labor, the doula works alongside the partner, if he or she is present, to create a seamless team whose sole focus is on the mother.

"Suggestions for specific positions, massages during and between contractions, and coached breathing and safe-place visualization are some of the many ways we can help ease the discomfort of the laboring mom," Schepper says.

Certified doulas adhere to a strict code of conduct and scope of practice, she adds. They never speak for the laboring mom or her partner, but they help facilitate conversations with the medical staff. They don’t offer medical opinions or perform medical tasks, and they don’t judge moms or try to convince them to act, think or feel a specific way. Doulas support births of all types with the intention of encouraging parents to decide what is right for them.

A 2012 study by Hodnett et al., published on the medical database Cochrane.org, concluded that the support of a doula drastically improved birth outcomes. Women who used doulas were 31 percent less likely to need Pitocin to augment or induce labor, 28 percent less likely to need a Cesarean section, and 9 percent less likely to need pain medication. They also reported having a more positive birth experience and better long-term breast-feeding outcomes.

The ultimate goal of Pensacola Birth Services is to improve women’s overall birth experience, Barnes says. "We’re passionate about encouraging women to make informed decisions and supporting families without judgment as they navigate the pivotal journey of welcoming another into their lives."

Both Barnes and Schepper have experience providing doula support for births of all types, medicated and unmedicated, and are certified in childbirth hypnosis.

For more information, call 850-783-0073 or visit PensacolaBirthServices.com.

 

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