Many moons ago women would go to other women for assistance in giving birth. The women were trained in the art of birthwork, they understood how our bodies worked, and they were revered by community members as one who understood the cycle and natural unfolding of life.
Today, especially in more western societies, women use medical intervention in THE most natural life process. But birthwork is slowly shifting back into the hands of women, and for good reason. The maternal death rate is steadily climbing (in the US) and in Harris County, where I live, it’s almost twice as high as the national average for Black women. From the statistics alone, many questions arise – but the most important, in my opinion, is “how do we lower the maternal death rate in these developed nations?”
Enter, The Doula. A study published in the Journal of Perinatal education concluded that “doula-assisted mothers were four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding.” A doula is a birthworker who assists women throughout pregnancy and delivery – educating them on subjects such as childbirth, natural pain remedies, postpartum healing, and more. She is not only an advocate for the expectant mother but she empowers her in her own health decisions. The same study revealed that “communication with and encouragement from a doula throughout the pregnancy may have increased the mother’s self-efficacy regarding her ability to impact her own pregnancy outcomes.”
A postpartum doula (who may also be a birth doula, as described above) assists mother once her baby has been born. She educates mother on womb and cesarean healing, nursing and feeding, baby cues, baby care, and self-care. She ensures the new mother doesn’t over-exert herself and often takes on household tasks – including baby care, mother care, and healthy meal preparation – to ensure that mother heals well physically and emotionally. She is also an advocate for mom and is ofter one of the first people to pick up on signs of postpartum depression or Baby Blues.
With birthing risks – including postpartum hemorraging, eclampsia and hypertensive disorders rising, it’s imperative that mothers have trained support when they return home from the hospital. A review of 17 reports on maternal deaths during the first 6 weeks found that 37.1% of eclampsia death occured on days 2–7, and most deaths due to infection occurred between days 8 and 42 (61.3%)2.
Your postpartum doula is part of your birthing team and support team. Try to choose your doula by your 2nd trimester, as they tend to book up fast. Your doula can provide daytime care, typically 4 – 8 hours several times per week, or overnight care to provide you and your partner respite. She’s there to make the transition with your new little one smoother, more pleasant and more emotionally rewading.
1Gruber KJ, Cupito SH, Dobson CF. Impact of doulas on healthy birth outcomes. J Perinat Educ. 2013 Winter;22(1):49-58. doi: 10.1891/1058-1243.22.1.49. PMID: 24381478; PMCID: PMC3647727.
2Dol, Justine1,2; Hughes, Brianna2,3; Bonet, Mercedes4; Dorey, Rachel3; Dorling, Jon5; Grant, Amy6; Langlois, Etienne V.7; Monaghan, Joelle8; Ollivier, Rachel3; Parker, Robin9; Roos, Nathalie10; Scott, Heather11; Shin, Hwayeon Danielle2,3; Curran, Janet2,3. Timing of maternal mortality and severe morbidity during the postpartum period: a systematic review. JBI Evidence Synthesis: September 2022 – Volume 20 – Issue 9 – p 2119-2194
hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The rising number of Cesarean sections – a major surgery that is not always necessary – is also believed to be a contributor
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