doula


Keith Roberts is unfazed by the attention given him as the first man to be certified as a doula by DONA.  He has has spent over 30 years in the field of holistic care, specifically focusing on pregnancy massage therapy and birth support for the last fourteen.  The prenatal massage work he does was a segue to following one mother right into labor where he found expert massage therapy was extremely beneficial to her in labor.  She was the first of fifteen more mothers he supported in labor before he determined to pursue certification as a doula.

Keith is perhaps more determined than female doulas to not replace fathers at birth.  The female support presence is invaluable because she is female and yet that bond is one that many a father may meet with trepidation: a club that he can’t be a member of by virtue of his gender.  Keith recalls an image that influences his genuine welcome of the father, an old cover of International Doula.  The cover’s image showed a mother embraced by her doula and the father is in the background.  Many a father today may not care to be present for labor but just as many men know there was a battle fought by Dr. Robert Bradley and the Hathaways to protect a father’s right to be in the labor and delivery rooms.

Those men who do want to be present for their child’s birth are already engaged in a checklist of all that they are expected to be today: he is to know everything about birth because he will be the mother’s advocate allowing her to focus on her labor; this he must accomplish while also providing physical, mental and emotional comfort.  Then after the baby is born he must strike the perfect balance between staying with mother throughout third stage and going with his baby should there be a medical reason to separate mother and baby.  As many a partner has put it, he/she must be everywhere, have eyes in the back of their heads and know how to play football, delivery room football that is.

Keith’s role is primarily for physical comfort.  It is easy for mom to choose between the two males present for her emotional and mental support….dad is her intimate partner.  “(Partners) are a reflection of mother’s state-of-mind; they tend to follow her lead and birth is just as much of an unknown to them as it is for mom.  They (dads) have as much a desire to meet birth at mother’s level of comfortability and she will want dad in front of her, to see him and be held by him.”  Further, for all of the reasons listed above, men appreciate having another male present in the primarily female energy until and unless a male obstetrician walks in for a few minutes of observation, medical speak and then exits.

When asked how he perceived the choice of a woman to invite doulas, let alone a male doula, to their births over their mothers even Keith’s keen observation of relationships is quick to surface.  In his experience few mothers want their own mothers present because they will feel a need to perform or meet parental expectations whether real or imagined.  Having their own mothers present is often an overwhelming thought no matter how comedic, true or polite the response is expressed!

Keith’s own intimate insight into birth as someone who could not experience birth for themselves but supports laboring women gives invaluable advice to partners.  These are his experienced Natural Birth Critical Factors:

  • Once you are in labor you cannot stop the flow of birth care you signed up for.  Choose wisely.
  • Read. Read. Read.  Take a natural childbirth class and read some more! A natural childbirth experienced and focused birth class leaves mothers and their partners with less “unkowns” and less fear of those unknowns.
  • Learn about fetal positioning.  The more you know about baby presentations and how to encourage optimal ones and work with less than optimal ones the more sense prudent changing of positions in labor makes.
  • Your choice of birth care practitioner directly relates to your odds of having a cesarean!
  • Keep the bag of waters intact!  Artificial rupturing of membranes (AROM) or artificially breaking the bag of waters is trivialized.  EVERY practitioner knows that within a short while of breaking the bag of waters labor intensifies in a ratcheted manner (versus a natural progression) and the majority of women will subsequently ask for an epidural.
  • Hire a doula for the purpose you want be it physiological support, birth knowledge, support for dad.  In all cases the doula can alleviate what stresses you most leaving you better able to meet labor’s demands with all of your own energy.
  • It is very hard to buck the system therefore, go back to Critical item number one.
  • Lastly, but more importantly, he reminds mothers that they have their own voice.  A doula will provide his/her opinion if asked but will never make a mother’s choice for her.  Mom must convey her choice directly to her careprovider and partners must be prepared to be be the first line of support echoing mother’s choice and minimize the number of minutes he/she might otherwise spend playing football by putting all that you’ve learned in a natural childbirth class into action.  Learn more about how your doula can best help you.

Through supporting women in labor hands on, so to speak, Keith has gained a whole new appreciation for the courage of women and for the hospital birth experience.  He concurs with Penny Simkin’s address at the DONA conference in Washington D.C. three years ago where stated the doula backlash is very real.  Keith advises new doulas to be mindful of their standards of practice and ethics.  Unless they have an established relationship with local practitioners then their voice, necessary for the support of laboring women, must be viewed as respectful of the practitioner and facility as well.  Birth is a hands on experience for the obstetricians and nurses themselves.  This is an opportunity for them to observe truly natural childbirth and learn.  If the doula is not respectful and professional in conveying her knowledge and experiences then the entire birth community suffers the backlash.

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The more a midwife speaks to a mother and spends quality time with her, the more likely a mother is to open up and reveal more of her daily routines and habits that can affect her pregnancy and birth.  For example, the midwife will ask a mother the most basic yet critical questions like what is she eating and follow up with nutritional counseling, a topic in which the midwife owns expertise. She’ll ask her what is occurring in her life today, yesterday, expecting for tomorrow. A mother’s every day peace and stress contributes to her body’s sense of well-being and reaching the point where mother and her body believe it is time now to give birth safely and securely.

The psychology of labor is addressed during the med school L&D rotation by incorporating finding other resources for emotional and mental support.  Subsequently we have a number of practitioners in all fields lacking in bedside manner today, but in birth this aspect has an impact intangible to the practitioner but very real to the mother and her family.  The average obstetrical course of education includes fewer than three credit hours in understanding nutrition.  The focus on prenatal nutrition is only a small portion of the syllabus (do your homework choosing a careprovider!).  The home birth midwife also follows the mother into the immediate postpartum and continues home visits to see how mother and baby function as a unit.

It is the midwife who is better versed in delivering babies in various but normal birth situations.  A breech baby can be birthed safer in the hands of a midwife than a hospital attendant.  She has not let her skills fall behind because medico-legal liability has dictated a breech birth to be enough of a risk as to deem a cesarean to be the required course of action; therefore, she continues to hone both her observational and palpating skills.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), America’s leading organization promoting the benefits of clinical obstetrics in the sterile rooms of trained physicians, has found itself in a dilemma.  The technology and protocols ACOG promotes are the very ones that directly influence our birth statistics negatively.  The birth technology ACOG promotes to prevent or lower risks in birth for both mothers and their babies has not been proven to be beneficial, yet it is used profusely.  Birth in America rarely includes the intimacy of the act that culminated in procreation.  Images of an infant gently caught into its own mother’s arms are so rare that they cause the general public to question the safety of such an event. Debate for and against the licensing of midwifery – and the definition of midwifery itself – is gaining momentum, because statistics for hands off care of normal, natural childbirth are far better than those of managed birth.

In fact, Rebecca Watson of the New Mexico Department of Health has stated, “I sometimes wonder why [we bother compiling statistics on midwives], since their statistics are so much better than everyone else’s.”

While home birth is stereotyped as dangerous because of the lack of medical supervision, it is the lack of that technology and medicine that actually makes birth at home safer than birth in a hospital under today’s protocols.

Studies have shown that once a technology is introduced and mandated, it is difficult to remove it from care practice despite being proven unsafe or unnecessary.  For instance, although the rates involving an episiotomy (cutting the perineum to create a larger opening for the baby to pass through) have dropped drastically since 1980, it is still a common practice.  Ironically, episiotomy rates today are justified as integral to the higher use of vacuum-assisted deliveries or unfounded fears that a baby is stuck because it is a large baby or presenting in a less than optimal position, (posteriors, for example, where a baby faces away from the mother’s back during labor).

America is one of the few nations where birth is managed more with technology than with the hands and eyes of the care provider, but other countries will soon catch up. In a country that boasts technology superior to other developed nations and is not known for undernourishing its citizens, our mothers and babies are faring no better at birth than underdeveloped nations such as Croatia. No improvements have been made in the maternal mortality rate in America since 1982, and  America’s infant mortality rate in the past two decades also has not improved. Our birth technology has increased and the number of routine prenatal screening tests have multiplied since the early 1960s, but our maternal and fetal outcomes have gone progressively backward.

“Despite a significant improvement in the U.S. maternal mortality ratio since the early 1900s, it still represents a substantial and frustrating burden, particularly given the fact that – essentially – no progress has been made in most U.S. states since 1982. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that most cases are probably preventable.” states C.T. Lang in a 2008 obstetrics and gynecology report.  Further, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 1983 that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was 8.0 for every 100,000 live births (Monthly Vital Statistics Report).  In 1993, the rate was 12.0/100,000 live births (CDC).

Among the causal deaths that could be prevented were those that involve both underlying health issues such as poor nutrition and high blood pressure (World Health Organization) as well as those that are physician-caused including infection and hemorrhage.  Bacterium can be introduced first by the mother arriving in an environment where diseases are being treated as well as from infiltrating the natural barriers we have against infection through vaginal exams and, of course, surgical delivery. In addition, there are higher incidences of hemorrhage from forced delivery of the placenta as when a care provider intentionally pulls on an umbilical cord to tear the placenta away from the uterine wall of the mother’s womb. In all instances, normal birth evidence training of the professional birth attendant is critical.

Injuries and deaths related to the physician’s care range from the off-label use of medicine such as Cytotec (also known as Misoprostol) for the inducing of labor as well as the sanctified use of surgical delivery, which gives us embolism, one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and a risk directly associated with cesareans.  Cesarean rates for delivery rose by 46 percent from 1995 to 2006.

Women around the world, the time to look again at the image of women birthing with women versus a medical obstetrical group in normal birth is now. WE can improve global maternal and newborn birth outcomes and experiences. WE know birth. WE know women’s hopes and fears.  A new generation of birth wisdom and experiences is here!

Wishing you a truly happy Mother’s Day secure in the knowledge of your body’s innate wisdom!

Learn more about the wisdom of utilizing your best resource: an Independent Childbirth member led birth education class like Dorene Vaughn’s All Natural Baby!

Visit our comments section (this post) to find some of the most awesome birth wisdom posts our readers have found on the web and to add the ones you’ve found!

In a recent discussion we have had on our independent childbirth educators email list, the topic turned to one of the basic differences between supporting a woman through labor, and medicating a woman through labor; between listening to a woman’s complaints, and “fixing” a woman’s complaints; between most home births and far too many hospital births.

One woman told of an experience in supporting a woman through her labor.  The mother turned to her doula and husband once and said, “This sucks!” The doula answered, “Yes, I know it hurts, but you can do it.”  The mother responded, “Yes, I know I can do it. I just wanted to let you know it sucks!”

How many nurses, husbands, or other birth-support people would have heard the woman say that, and offered her medication to “fix her problem”? She wasn’t needing anything fixed — she just wanted to communicate. Isn’t there a whole industry in attempting to help men and women communicate, especially in marriage and other personal relationships? Why should we think that doctors (who are typically trained in the all-male tradition of med school for generations) and the medical establishment will know how to communicate in the all-female world of birthing mothers?  Men tend to want to know the answer. Doctors are also trained in how to fix problems, medically. Mothers want to talk about it first.

So many women just want to be listened to. These basic differences will not just disappear because women are in labor. Some people — both men and women, although men tend to fall into this much more easily than do women — just want to know the answer and use it to fix problems, even if the “fix” is something unwanted by the person who is dealing with the situation.

When a woman’s birth-support team moves too quickly from listening and encouraging – and the other basic tenets of female relationships and female support – they may undermine a woman’s innate courage and strength.  This can happen regardless of the sex of those who surround her in birth.

What if, instead of telling her “you can do this,” the doula had responded, “would you like an epidural?”  The mother may have heard, “You’re not strong enough to handle labor without drugs, so just go ahead and get an epidural before it gets any worse.”  For my part, I’m very vulnerable to suggestion during labor.  A question like that — as innocent as it sounds — may have been enough to make me say “okay.”  Because, after all, if the people who are watching me labor think I need an epidural, then maybe I do!

Fortunately, nothing like that happened during either of my labors.  Instead, the midwives asked open-ended questions, like, “What do you want to do?”  Every time they asked a question or made a suggestion (like getting into or out of the labor tub) I obeyed it as much as if it were a command; questioning it no more than if they had asked me if I wanted some cake, or if I should breathe.

Sometimes, women just want acknowledgement of what they’re going through, rather than changing what they’re going through.  At times labor hurts, it’s intense, you just can’t get comfortable and there is no way in hell you would call what you’re doing relaxation.  It can suck.  It’s time to honor that too.  Don’t fix us.  We’re not broken.

As a group whose every day bears witness to the entry into this world of many a newborn we enjoy hearing women’s descriptions of all things birth.  We tend to cringe hearing harsh language surrounding birth.  An irritable uterus?  What is that, a belly with angry eyes???

I remember Laura describing her daughter’s entry into the world as one where her cord was “creatively wrapped.”  What a difference it makes to view each birth with wonder, not as a risk.  I believe it is in the documentary by Patchwork Films called “Born In The USA” where Dr. Joanne Armstrong admits hospitals have low tolerance for viewing laboring women as anything but risk.

We spent a good portion of last year bringing awareness to the misleading presentations on technology in birth.  We will continue to do so as new “turf battles” with ACOG arise, but it’s time now to see the beauty of labor and birth as it really exists.  I know many believe “orgasmic birth an old midwive’s tale” or simply too extreme a description for what is otherwise only a reverential experience.  I have to smile to myself and just state the obvious: birth is personal and some take their personal view as the only view and are taken aback when their view isn’t just like someone else’s is.  Perhaps that’s why Ms. Moore fails to mention that Orgasmic Birth also contains the story of a mother who labored and labored and labored.  It wasn’t orgasmic in the sexual sense.  It was sexual as in liberating.  Had this woman labored in a hospital she would have been sectioned.  The only real point of discussion is that whether or not any of us feels she should have been sectioned is a matter of personal choice.  And that’s what we here at Independent Childbirth see as the reason why globally maternal care is so faulty: it does not have choice at the foundation.

Birth is.  Period.  That’s the true beautiful secret of birth.  Each birth is unique as well as being unique to the mother at that moment in time.  When she first birthed she was not the same woman that she is giving birth the following year or years later.  She is not the same woman giving birth two, three, four births later.  None of those babies are the same as the ones before.

When women fail to honor the different choices we each make we tear each other down.  Why else are the mommy wars the fodder of many a journalistic piece?  It makes for entertainment: judging each other for the decision to breastfeed even when it means dealing with people who cannot see breasts as anything other than sexual; judging each other for a mom who wants to both be a mother and have a successful career.

We need more appreciation for the turtle women.  Yes, turtle women.  There are turtle women specific to the birth world but I think turtle women abound in all aspects of our life.  They are the women who support, not criticize, our choices.  It does not mean they agree with every choice we make.  It does mean that they are wise enough to recognize the value of stirring every woman to think about her choices, why she made them and most importantly be confident in her own wisdom to adjust or make different choices because she has learned something new.

“Orgasmic Birth” is scheduled to be reviewed in a segment by ABC’s 20/20 tonight at long last.  Unfortunately it may be viewed as a part of a theme called “extreme mothering.”  Today’s journalism just isn’t journalism unless it’s sensationalist.  Sigh.

No matter.  Turtle women all the way down … enjoy!

America is pretty unique in the type of childbirth prep our society recognizes.  Did you know in many countries, many cultures our way of birth prep is quite odd: all gather and sit in a hospital provided room or have a workbook and sit in a classroom style?  

Watch our birth link video again.  We are changing birth prep today!  We are centered on YOU.  You are the real woman, real options, real birth link!  Tell us about your birth link and take our survey!

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You do so much to take care of yourself in pregnancy and you read about labor, try to take the most informative birth education series and choose the “right” careprovider and birth location for a healthy birth.  Most people don’t see this one coming.  We trust careproviders to first do no harm.  Harsh as it sounds, you can’t trust them all and even careproviders acknowledge some of their colleagues are doing things they would never do.

More importantly remember the best cesarean prevention is knowing your body is designed to give birth in its own time, in its own way.  If you are a first time mother it is especially important to know that birthing spontaneously and vaginally is the foundation for your next births.

 

“The two most power filled words – I can.”  – Anonymous

Every birth educator and doula needs to tell their clients this: Your careprovider must tell you if they plan to use Cytotec and must tell you about all of the risks involved before you consent to its use in your care.  You must remember that Cytotec also goes by “miso” or “misoprostol.”  Use all of these names in asking about this tiny little pill.

Throughout this blog you’ve read about the basis for informed consent as well as the disregard for informed consent when it comes to birth care.  You’ve also read about the dangers of Cytotec, how it’s used off label and it continues to be used in spite of the unpredictable rates of injury including death.  

While researching what progress we’ve made in raising awareness of the off label use of Cytotec I came across this lawsuit settlement from 2001 and now we are working to make others in the birth community aware of it as members of our Yahoo group spread the word:

$2 million 

Failure To Obtain Consent For Off-Label Use Of Cytotec 
Case name withheld
Plaintiff’s Counsel: Joseph J. Wadland and James L. Ackerman, Wadland & Ackerman, Boston and Andover 
The plaintiffs were a 38-year-old woman and her husband who were expecting their first child. At about 41 weeks of gestation, the decision was made by her primary Ob/Gyn to induce her labor. A dose of 25 micrograms of Cytotec, a drug that the FDA has approved for the prevention of gastric ulcers, but not for the induction of labor or cervical ripening, reportedly was given vaginally. The care providers did not obtain the mother’s informed consent for the use of Cytotec that was being administered for an “off-label” indication in a high-risk situation. A series of complications arose, including the deceleration of the fetal heart rate and the baby was delivered via Caesarian section. The baby was lifeless and resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. The mother also required a hysterectomy as a result of off-label use of Cytotec. When the claim settled on Aug. 7, 2001, it was the first reported settlement or verdict in Massachusetts involving the drug Cytotec. 
This settlement was first reported in the Nov. 5, 2001 issue.”

If you are in an online group that shares birth information share this one.  Please.

Then continue to read our posts on understanding informed consent and the stories of Cytotec’s unpredictability

Own your birth.  Demand full disclosure of all care practices.  Spread the truth about birth: You can.

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