When it comes to choosing your birthing team, there are many options to consider. Let’s take a look at what your choices are. This may vary from country to country but the deciding principles are universal. So what are the main elements in choosing your birth tribe?
Choose an environment to birth that feels safe and secure for you. This may be your home, a birth centre or a public or private hospital. The key thing is that you feel you have chosen a place that it is going to give you the best chance at fulfilling your birthing wishes.
Tribes often have leaders, so in this case that is you! Choose your tribe wisely: you only want people on your birth team who support you, empower you, help to educate you and absolutely believe in your ability to birth your baby as you envisage. Remember these points as you start to put your team together and know that it is never too late to change your tribe. A great tribe will guide you through your pregnancy and encourage you to take ownership of your journey. You are the only one who can birth your baby. Being supported and nurtured by a wonderful tribe will help facilitate that experience for you. So what tribal members are available?
Let’s take a look:
Doulas. Non-medical support person or pregnancy and birth coach. Someone to advocate for you and provide continuity of care.
Private midwife. A midwife in private practice and employed by the birthing woman, usually for a home birth or hospital birth.
Hospital midwife. A midwife who cares for pregnant women within the hospital system. Usually women see different midwives at each appointment. Your hospital may have the option for group midwifery care. This gives you an assigned midwife for your whole pregnancy which offers continuity of care. Research shows this continuity can reduce the risk of caesarean, interventions and the need for pain relief. A trusting relationship and familiar face in labour can help to ease a woman’s mind, allowing her to feel safe and secure within her environment.
Obstetrician. A medical doctor trained in pregnancy and childbirth, working both in private practice and the public sector in most countries.
So how do you choose where to birth and who to birth with?
Firstly write down your ideal birth, including what you would truly desire. Now here comes the work: start researching each place of birth and tribal member to see who is in alignment with your birthing vision. You should start to get an idea of how each tribe works, their beliefs about birth and their outcomes. Remember, choose your tribe wisely and listen to your motherly instinct, for it often knows what’s best.
Why choose a doula?
Many women today are turning to doulas for support through their pregnancy and birth journeys. In a time where childbirth intervention rates are climbing and more women are suffering from postnatal depression, it’s no wonder they are in need of support and searching for different options.
A doula’s main role is to educate a couple throughout the pregnancy so that they are able to make informed choices. Doulas are mostly women who have undergone training in the physiological processes of pregnancy and childbirth. They are also trained to assist in the postpartum period and have learnt many tools to support a woman before, during and after birth. These tools may include massage, meditation, mindset techniques, and natural, drug-free pain relief methods. It is also common to find doulas who have additional formal training in areas of acupuncture, yoga, naturopathy or even chiropractic.
A doula does not give medical advice, but encourages and guides a couple to research and find what choices are best for them and their baby. A doula differs from a midwife in that the role is not a medical one. Doulas do not monitor temperature, blood pressure or in any way medically care for the mother or baby. Their focus is to support a couple mentally, emotionally and physically (in labour) and to provide information to educate and empower.
Research indicates that when a woman is supported, nurtured and offered continuity of care throughout pregnancy and birth, her birth outcomes are improved, not just on the physical level but the mental and emotional as well. Often society emphasises the importance of a healthy baby and healthy mother. That is a given but what is also important is a mother who is empowered and satisfied with her birthing journey, and able to transition into motherhood feeling confident.
Women who receive continuous support during labour often have reduced risk of a caesarean or instrument delivery or need for analgesia compared to care without continuous support. As a doula myself, I see firsthand the positive impact this support can have, not only on a woman but also on her partner who is often overwhelmed with the process of childbirth. Having a doula gives partners the support to know they are not alone and that it’s not all up to them to know the ins and outs of childbirth.
The benefits of a doula extend to the partner by giving them time throughout the labour when they need it most, and reassurance as to the processes of birth. Doulas include partners into the birthing team rather than exclude them. Women who choose care providers on their birthing team who support their desires and beliefs will feel more relaxed in labour and confident in their ability to birth.
Doulas help to guide women and their partners to access a variety of information so they can be better equipped to make choices through their pregnancy and birth that leads them to a satisfying and empowered birthing experience.
If we are to change the face of birth we must approach pregnancy and childbirth from a physical, mental and emotional viewpoint. Birth is not just a physical process where the thoughts and feelings of a mother are excluded. How women are cared for during pregnancy and birth is paramount to their wellbeing and that of their babies.
Extract taken from Feelosophy of Birth written by Brooke Martin, doula and pregnancy yoga teacher based in Sydney, Australia.