Firstly, it is very important to say – WE LOVE LOVE LOVE MIDWIVES!
As part of our Birth Rights Awareness Campaign, “Have a Choice 2 Have a Doula” at the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, we are interviewing families that hired/tried to hire Birth Doula Support to help illustrate the very well-studied benefits that continuous, known, exclusive, non-medical labour companions bring to the birth experience AS COMPLEMENT TO THE VERY IMPORTANT MEDICAL TEAM (MIDWIFE AND OBSTETRICIAN IN LUXEMBOURG). Our approach is to raise awareness at the level of the strongest voice collectively, the consumers. It is key that consumers understand their Human Rights in Childbirth which underlines their right to “choose the circumstances of birth” according to their individual wishes, regardless of what care providers may claim – e.g. “ you will only be ‘allowed’ 1 support person (the dad) in the birth room”. Read more here about our campaign, your rights, how to hire a Doula and more! Lastly, did we mention we LOVE midwives? 🙂
”We had a Birth Doula!” – Interview with Bianca & Flavio, Luxembourg
Interviewed by Elfi Koufogeorgou
Elfi: When and where did you give birth?
Bianca: 7th December 2016 at CHL.
Elfi: The support from women to women during labour is age old, but the term Doulas in Luxembourg especially is not yet well known. How did you find out about the role of a doula?
Bianca: I did a ton of online research to help me prepare, and came across it on brazilian websites.
Elfi: Why were you interested in Doula support?
Bianca: Since this was our first time giving birth, we wanted as much support as possible. We also wanted a natural birth, so having the support of the Doula would help support us.
Elfi: How did you go about finding and hiring your Doula?
Bianca: On the Facebook Luxmama group.
Elfi: What kind of support did she offer prenatally?
Bianca: We met three times before the delivery. The first meeting was to get to know each other, break the ice and align expectations. The second time we went over the birth plan; and the third time was closer to the due date, so we focused on the pain-relief exercises and went over overall logistics. Throughout this we were in constant contact via WhatsApp.
Elfi: During your labour and delivery, how did your Doula support you and your partner’s birth experience?
Bianca: Our Doula was on call from week 37, so as soon as we got some signs of labor, she was the person to go to for doubts and questions. On the 5th of December some contractions started, we went to hospital and came back home on our own. On the 6th stronger contractions started, so she came over to our house and stayed with us throughout (more than 24 hours!).
Elfi: What kind of support did she offer postpartum?
Bianca: The Doula kept in touch, suggested ways in which to overcome the early difficulties (sleeping, breastfeeding, etc..)
Elfi: Question for Flavio specifically – Did you as a couple ever feel like the Doula was interfering with the role of the partner*? And Flavio, how did you as a partner feel about having a doula there? Did she support YOU as well?
Flavio: My role during labour was to be emotionally available for my wife, to help her navigate the roller-coaster of emotions, doubts and concerns that the experience brought her. No doula, nurse, midwife or doctor could ever interfere with that role. Instead, the doula brought comfort, a calm head and prior experience that neither of us had, much like nurses and doctors bring clinical and medical assistance. She helped clarify doubts when nurses weren’t available, or when we didn’t fully understand them. She supported me in supporting my wife.
* Many people say that if you have your partner as continuous support, why would you need a birth doula as well?
“How is a doula different from having your partner/spouse there?
Some people think that they do not need a doula because their partner will be with them continuously throughout labor. It is true that the birth partner is an essential support person for a birthing person to have by their side. However, the birth partner will need to eat and use the bathroom at times, and they are having their own emotional journey that requires support. Also, many partners have limited knowledge about birth, medical procedures, or what goes on in a hospital, while doulas have knowledge and experience about all of these things that they can use to inform and support both the partner and
birthing person. Ideally, doulas and partners can work together to make up a labor support team.
In one landmark study that evaluated the effects of doulas and fathers working together, researchers found that combining a supportive partner and a doula significantly lowered the mother’s risk of Cesarean compared to just having a supportive partner alone. In 2008, McGrath and Kennell randomly assigned 420 first-time mothers to have routine care (including a supportive partner) or care that also included a professional doula whom they met for the first time during labor. All of the women in the study were classified as having middle- to upper-class financial income levels, having supportive partners, and in the care of obstetricians.
During labor, doulas provided continuous support, including encouragement, reassurance, and physical support. They helped the partner support the laboring person, and were careful not to take over the partner’s role.”
The Doula Book, by MD Marshall H Klaus, MD John H Kennel and Phyllis H Klaus elaborates:
“When two people share an emotional bond and an ongoing relationship, it is very difficult for that companion to remain continuously objective, calm, and removed to some degree from the mother’s discomfort and fears or any danger to her. In most cases – and this cannot be stated too often – the father will have the unexpressed but deeply felt question, will everything be all right? Also, a father often has had little or no experience with the birth process.
For these reasons, woman in labor should have the option of not only the partner but also a nurturing, experienced person – a doula – who calmly and skillfully help her cope with labor and be a reassuring and constant presence for both her and the father. The doula gives a level of support different from that of a person who is intimately related to the woman in labor.
These two kinds of support complement each other. Very often the couple worry that an outside support person will take over and control the labor experience, as many individuals providing labor assistance have traditionally done. The training of a doula is quite different, emphasising quiet reassurance and enhancement of the natural abilities of the labouring woman. A doula is constantly aware that the couple will carry the memory of this experience throughout their lives.
The needs of Fathers during labor and delivery: In asking fathers to be the main support, our society may have created a very difficult expectation for them to meet. This is like asking fathers to play in a professional football game after several lectures but without any training or practice games. Couples sometimes get the mistaken impression from childbirth classes that by using a number of simple exercises, the father can be a main source of support and knowledge for the entire labor when the nurse is unavailable. This is true for a small number of fathers, but most fathers-especially first-timers-do not get enough opportunity in the classes to observe and practice.
Often the dilemma for childbirth instructors is how to get fathers to be more a part of the experience and appreciate what actually lies ahead. Fathers entering into this new role often feel nervous, joke frequently, and consciously or unconsciously wonder whether they belong in this whole obstetrical arena. Dr Martin Greenberg, an experienced physician who has done research with new fathers, commented “I didn’t realise until later how frightened and angry I felt at the staff for being left alone with my wife when having our first baby.
In no other area of the hospital is a family member asked to take on such a significant caretaking role as in childbirth. When working in the obstetrical unit, we have often been struck by how terribly relieved fathers are when an experienced nurse or midwife enters the room and remains with them. This feeling of relief enables fathers to be much more relaxed, loving and emotionally available than when they bear the burden of responsibility alone.
We therefore want to enable the father to be present at his own comfort level and to remain emotionally connected to his partner and child. Few fathers want to be – or should be – the sole support person in the room. The mother gains more assured, steady emotional support from her partner if he is less worried about what he is supposed to do and if they both can relax. As one father noted “I’ve run a number of marathons, I’ve done a lot of hiking with a heavy backpack, and I’ve worked for forty hours straight on call, but going through labor with my wife was more strenuous and exhausting than any of these other experiences. We could never have done it without a doula, she was crucial for us.” His wife added “I want the doula there to assure me that everything is fine and to comfort me. I want my husband there for emotional support.”
A labouring woman’s rapid changes of mood may alarm an inexperienced father and compound the mother’s fears. Although fathers have many positive feelings and great anticipation, these negative feelings can get in the way and, in turn affect the progress of the labor itself. Over and over again we have been impressed by the calming influence the doula has for both the mother and father as she explains what is happening, uses her experience to help the mother, and supports the parents in having the kind of experience they originally desired.”
Elfi: Please share anything you feel other women should know about your birth experience with a Doula.
Bianca: The biggest support we got from the Doula was the feeling that someone neutral, was there informing us of options.
After, there are a few other aspects that we valued, and think should be considered when choosing a Doula:
Empathy: we truly felt like she cared about us and having an outcome that suited us, which is why the 3 meetings beforehand were super important.
Professionalism: I wanted a 100% natural birth, but due to long labour and slow dilation, we had to adjust as we went. The Doula was super important to help us understand our options (for instance, having some minutes to think and decide before taking oxytocyn).
Energy: our Doula was with us through the whole process, starting at 8pm on the 6th until the birth at 11pm of the 7th; she kept strong and focused only on us. She didn’t change shifts.
Elfi: In 1 sentence, how did it make you feel during labour, having an independent, support person, looking out for your best interest by your side, continuously?
Bianca: I felt more in control of the situation, safer and less worried
More about Bianca
Bianca Lopes is a Brazilian first time mom living in Luxembourg with her loving husband and daughter Mia. After working in Brazil and Colombia as a Recruitment professional, she decided to move to Europe with her husband and got a career break devoted to family after the happy news of being pregnant. She is still figuring out how this parenting world works, while enjoying her little baby giggles and smiles.
More about the Author
Elfi joined Luxmama Club as a volunteer in 2015. Along with her full time role in an international organization and raising her daughters, she is passionate about writing stories and helping other people share theirs. Stories that empower, inspire and create the ” you are not alone” feeling. You can see more of her work in her recent blog koufelef.wixsite.com/elfiswritinglab but also in http://www.themamagers.gr (articles in greek) and http://www.newdiaspora.com (articles in english).