The Doula Advocate
By: Emily Accrocco
It’s tough being a doula. Not only do you work long, unpredictable hours, you may be required to stay up all night, face serious birth complications and challenging hospital situations. While juggling all these tasks during a birth, advocacy is important for the mother and family.
A few things doulas advocate for:
Taking childbirth education classes: A doula who wishes to become certified through an organization is usually required to take a childbirth class or to take a childbirth educator class (CBE). Some doulas include CBE in their agreement to accept services and may tag on an extra fee. Taking a series provides clients with a minimum understanding of what they are going to go through in the months to come. Topics include stages and phases of labor, behavioral and emotional characteristics of each phase, specific positions and comfort measures, relaxation techniques, what to expect immediately postpartum, newborn procedures and more! (Doula International Magazine, DONA, Vol 21, Issue 2, 2013). Taking a course helps ensure that there is informed consent or choice in the way your labor and delivery pans out. You will know the risks and
benefits of many hospital procedures and will be encouraged by your doula to ask probing questions if you are unsure about a specific one. Ask your doula to provide you with referrals to CBE classes and teachers in your area. Your doula may also offer access to her extensive lending library and educational DVDs.
Writing a Birth Wish/Preference, not PLAN: We doulas don’t like to call a birth “plan” a “birth plan”. Birth rarely goes as planned so it’s easier to call it a wish or a preference. There are plenty of tools online, such as:
which have templates and guides to help you write one. I always assist my clients with their preferences
at the second prenatal meeting. I remind them of items they may have left out, like whether or not to circumcise their little boy, or newborn medicines, such as a vitamin K shot, or eye drops put in soon after birth which can make a newborn’s vision blurry. And mamas, you want that baby to be able to see you
immediately after delivery to enhance the bonding! I advise my clients to bring at least six copies of their birth wish to the hospital or birth center because of nurse/doctor shift changes. When I’m at a birth, to every new face, I introduce myself and then ask if they have reviewed the family’s birth preference.
Avoiding unnecessary inductions: I know from experience that the last couple weeks of pregnancy are bru-tal. I was in North Carolina, during hot, hot summer for my third trimester. With no A/C in my car, I was a big,
sweaty, (but beautiful!) beast. Mamas, it is very important to wait it out and let your baby come when he or she is ready. Your body and baby will work together at the right time. Check with your provider to make sure no bar mitzvahs or vacations are scheduled around your due date. If that is the case, meet a second provider or back up for your provider. A fetus’s lungs aren’t developed til week 34 in your pregnancy and babies born before this week may have various breathing difficulties and will most likely require a stay in the
NICU. However, if there are certain complications, induction may be medically necessary. According to the
March of Dimes, “Babies born after 37 weeks of pregnancy are full-term. However, new research has shown that a baby’s brain nearly doubles in weight in the last few weeks of pregnancy.” So, keep bakin’ that baby! A doula can help remind you of natural ways to induce your labor, such as herbs, tinctures and the various
hospital procedures that are nonmedical like a foley catheter or breaking your water, as long as she’s within the scope of practice of her agency.
Mamas, be well prepared for your birth! Wait out your pregnancy. Don’t make hasty decisions during labor. Review your preferences with your doula, provider and partner so they can remind you of what you wanted before all that pain began! Birth can profoundly transform a woman, strengthening her faith and deepening her identity, so make sure you’ve educated yourself on these topics. And hire a doula!
Did y’all hear about:
The mother in Minnesota who lost her newborn for five days because she tested positive for drugs after eating a poppy seed bagel?! Don’t worry, she received a settlement AND got her baby girl back!
What about the woman who went into labor at a Rolling Stones concert in the U.K.?
OR the mother whose twin son was pronounced dead and she was able to revive him after TWO hours using skin-to-skin contact?!?!
Emily grew up in Barnstable, Cape Cod and after graduation, attended University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She earned a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Women's Studies. In 2010, she gave birth to her daughter Lena Rose with the assistance of a doula. She had never considered or been educated about natural childbirth or hiring a doula. Emily had an amazing experience and it motivated her to become a doula herself. Her dream was to work with teen girls and as a labor and delivery nurse, but found doula-ing satisfies both passions. Emily believes in the transitive powers of
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