Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘IMA’ Category

Doulas

Posted on: August 9, 2009

Yesterday someone asked me for my opinion on Doulas, so here goes.

 www.doula.org.uk defines a doula as:

“Doula” (pronounced “doola”) is a Greek word meaning “woman servant or caregiver”. It now refers to an experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth. A doula believes in “mothering the mother” – enabling a woman to have the most satisfying and empowered time that she can during pregnancy, birth and the early days as a new mum. This type of support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience.

It is tricky to define my feelings about Doulas.  I guess I actually started out as a doula, as I attended the births of several friends in the context of being a birth supporter (although the term doula was not in common usage then). I absolutely feel that the best person to support a labouring woman is another woman who has given birth herself (that said I have met some excellent male midwives … hello Mark and Kevin and I also know some fantastic midwives who haven’t had children themselves). My personal experience with doulas is limited, but has generally been positive – as a midwife I am always happy that a woman is supported by those she feels comfortable with and indeed it can be very helpful to me, however I am also aware that some midwives have had negative experiences of doulas who perhaps have been in conflict with the midwife (and I am sure that some midwives may view doulas less favourably than me).

I find myself slightly uncomfortable with the doulas role partly I guess because I feel that if midwives are doing a good job the midwife would be supporting her client; but also I am concerned that we may be using “untrained” support i.e. doulas or maternity care assistants in place of midwives and this may not be appropriate.  I am increasingly hearing that the role of maternity care assistants (MCAs) is being extended – again, this evokes completely mixed feelings as I know MCAs can be excellent and they should not attempt anything that they have not been trained for, but they are not midwives and have not taken a three year training course.  Are they being used as cheap labour?  Will they miss vital signs and symptoms because of their lack of training?  I don’t know.

There are many positives to employing a doula, for example they will help with domestic duties for example cooking, shopping etc and this may well be beneficial, they are certainly cheaper than hiring an Independent Midwife like myself but their role is different.  For a woman planning a NHS hospital birth where the midwife may well also be caring for other clients it is a way of ensuring that the woman is not left alone and this will be supportive for the woman and her partner.

So I guess my jury is out on this one – I guess it is down to your personal circumstances.

Following my recent posting when I mentioned that some women choose unassisted birth as a result of previous trauma, I have recently read that  American actor and talk-show host Rikki Lake has revealed that she was sexually abused as a young child.

Ricki Lake bravely discusses her past in her new book “Your Best Birth”.  Lake discusses her past battles with her weight and body image but goes on to describe the healing that she has experienced through her own birthing experiences, and I have to say that this concurs with my experiences as a midwife – I absolutely believe that a positive birth experience can be healing and empowering for women whether their past trauma was sexual abuse or a traumatic birth experience and am very happy to speak to women about this subject www.3shiresmidwife.co.uk.   It is well recognised by midwives that pregnancy and birth are significant times for women who have experienced sexual abuse – memories may well come to the fore, or a woman may remember events that she had previously buried and forgotten.

The documentary “The Business of Being Born”, www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com, which Lake made with filmmaker Abby Epstein, has touched many people and was championed by both the Independent Midwives Association (IMA) www.independentmidwives.org and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) www.nct-org.uk and has been shown to packed audiences around this country and abroad.

Help is available for survivors of child sexual abuse from a number of sources including:

www.thesurvivorstrust.org

www.childline.org.uk

www.sheilakitzinger.com

Well I’ve had another busy couple of days – last night I went along to a meeting of The Global Wellness Circle in Milton Keynes.

It was another great evening with extremely interesting talks given by Ann Peckham of The Real Renaissance Cafe Ltd which is a Social Enterprise that aims to help people gain confidence, skills and qualifications and provides custom made buffets that are freshly prepared; and a range of cooked and raw foods that are healthy for the body and the pocket.  Ann even brought along samples of wonderful dairy/wheat/sugar free deserts for us to try!

Jayne Stevens a holistic therapist who offers many therapies including massage and reiki gave a wonderful talk about the benefits of Indian Head Massage and even gave one lucky volunteer a taster demonstration session.  www.jaynestevensholistics.co.uk.  I was so impressed that I have booked to have an Indian Head Massage next week!

Lastly, Karrin Lawrence of The Coach Collection gave us a practical session of looking at “wellbeing” and what is stopping us achieving personal wellbeing.

The next Milton Keynes Circle meeting will be held in April – feel free to email me info@3shiresmidwife.co.uk for details.

Today, I have attended a really useful Business Development Workshop for Independent Midwives which was hosted by Virginia Howes of Kent Midwifery Practice.
Thanks very much Virginia – lots of useful ideas.


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