Rockpool Publishing

Help can be at hand with the right birth advocate

.”Help can be at hand with the right birth advocate

THE contractions have started, the pain is incredible and the baby is on its way. You had hoped for a drug-free, low-intervention birth. There would be music, a darkened room and few interruptions. But often best-laid plans come undone when labour intensifies. It doesn’t have to be that way. A growing number o f p r e g n a n t w o m e n a r e employing a doula to be their advocate during the b i r t h , to negotiate with hospital staff and to ensure t h e i r b i r t h w i s h e s a r e granted, where possible. But how do you find a doula and how do you know if you’ve found a good one? A new book, Doulas: Why Every Pregnant Woman Deserves One, seeks to educate Australian women on what a doula is and how to

choose one. It’s written by midwife and doula Susan Ross. She’s been a midwife for 30 years and says research shows that having a doula can result in a 50 per cent reduction in caesareans. ‘‘I’m the only midwife training doulas in Australia. I focus on doulas having a really good understanding of the hospital system and being able to negotiate . . . and having respect for the health professionals, while helping the woman to have the birth she wants.’’ Ms Ross says ideally the doula will meet the couple early in the pregnancy and over the course of the pregnancy will form a good working relationship. She says they are an advocate and a sounding board. She says too often women are told by their doctor or midwife, ‘‘This is what we’re doing today’’, with little room for discussion. ‘‘A doula teaches that woman to do that negotiation,’’ she says. Ms Ross says the presence of a doula enables the husband to focus on his wife. It also gives the husband an opportunity to leave the labour ward, to have a break. But as with most things, one doula is not as good as the next. Ms Ross says shop around and ask these questions:

1. Tell me about your experience. Find someone who has been to a number of different types of births.

2. What’s your philosophy about birth?

3. How much experience have you had negotiating with care givers and how has that gone?

 (You don’t want a doula who goes in all guns blazing.) ‘‘Midwives have a responsibility to tick all the boxes and follow all the policies and procedures. A doula doesn’t have to worry about that, her sole purpose is to make sure that the woman is having a wonderful birthing experience.’’

Alice Gorman – 14 February, 2012