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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Childbirth: The Power of the Doula

Mar 01, 2014 05:29PM ● By Gerri Mahn

Doulas are trained birth assistants that coach new mothers in pregnancy, labor and nursing. Acting as a partner, they guide women through what can be an overwhelming physical and emotional experience. A doula is not a midwife, nurse or doctor. They do not deliver babies; their sole purpose is to help pregnant women have a positive and healthy experience.

The birth of a child is a landmark occasion. Yet the experience can be complicated. New mothers that choose a holistic lifestyle are sometimes inundated with contradictory advice from natural health practitioners and medical doctors. Doulas can help bridge that gap, allowing women to make informed choices utilizing both natural and medical healthcare professionals in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for mother and child.

Research has shown that:

• The use of doulas is more likely to result in natural birth (decreasing the need for C-sections).

• Doula-assisted at-risk mothers have better birth outcomes.

• Doula-assisted mothers are less likely to have babies with low birth weights.

• Doula-assisted mothers are more likely to breast feed.

• Doulas help overcome cultural communication barriers between mothers and health care professionals.

• Doulas may be effective in screening for post-partum depression, considering the bond that forms between themselves and the mother.

Many doulas are also committed to supporting women’s health in the community. The Philly Doula Co- Op pursues opportunities to educate local medical professionals about the services they offer. They build bridges to promote understanding and help underserved and economically disadvantaged women in the community.

An effective doula will work with both the new mother and her healthcare provider to develop an appropriate birth plan. They will help with the aesthetics (music, candles, etc.) while focusing on the essentials, such as the need for possible medical intervention if complications arise. They are a fantastic resource for first-time parents and single mothers.

Expectant mothers should ask their healthcare provider or midwife to recommend a doula they already have a professional relationship with, or contact a doula co-op or training institution in her area for local listings.

Gerri Mahn, MLS, is a freelance writer who has spent the last 10 years working in health care. She and her husband, Sifu Bryant Feld, recently opened the Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu School in Cherry Hill, NJ.

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