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Why do I need extra Support and what would be the best fit for me?

Where do I find support?


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05/08/2017

Why do I need extra Support and what would be the best fit for me?

When you ask a mother about the most memorable moments in her life, a time when she was full of joy, fear, excitement, love, and pain, her answer will most probably be ‘childbirth’.

Whether your child is 3 months, 3 years or 30 years of age, a woman can instantly recall, replay, reflect and retell the story of the day her child was born.

For many women, the birthing process is classed as one of the most challenging, intense and incredible experiences that they will have in their lives. It is an event that holds a very strong sense of memory and is a pivotal turning point in who she is.

This being said, I have to ask why so many women go into this experience under prepared and without adequate support. Once upon a time, there were mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and other elders in the community present to support a woman through the experience of childbirth. As time has passed our sense of family and community has dwindled. Women used to be exposed to birth through their sisters, cousins and other friends, and a safety net and support system were formed. Today, however, we are expected to walk into the great unknown with a barrage of horror stories around birth and an equally frightened partner, holding your hand for support.

When you look at a marathon runner who is about to endure a 40km run or an iron man or woman who will spend the next 8 hours pushing their body to the limit, not only do they prepare and train, but they also surround themselves with support. Someone to give them food and drink, another to massage their weary legs and a coach to inspire, to encourage and to hold them to their goal when they start to fatigue or feel like giving up.

This process of support is normal, in fact, expected. Yet in childbirth, a similar event of endurance, many women enter into their experience without training, support or knowledge.

After interviewing hundreds of women on their birth stories, what I found was that nearly 85% of women felt dissatisfied, unhappy and some quite traumatised by their birth experience. Three main factors kept arising. The first was knowledge, that they didn’t feel adequately prepared or informed about birth. The second was they didn’t feel safe in their birth environment. The third was they didn’t feel they had the right support. Many women reflected on how important it was having their partner there but commented that their partner felt just as frightened as they did, and didn’t know what was happening.

Enter the Doula/Birth Attendant or Independent Midwife. A woman who is there to nurture, create and provide support for the birthing couple with the aim to educate and empower women to achieve their desired birth.

A birth attendant meets with the pregnant couple, to get to know them and to form a relationship, so that continuity of care can be established. An understanding is achieved around the type of birth the couple wants and then the birth attendant helps to educate them on how that can best be achieved. For example, if a woman wants to have a natural birth, then the place she chooses to birth is very important. Birth practices today in Australia are highly interventionist and for a woman who wants to birth naturally, a good understanding is needed of how the system works and what it takes to achieve a natural birth.

A birth attendant is present for the duration of the birth. For most women who choose to have a private obstetrician, at their time of greatest need during labour, they are cared for by midwives that they have never met. An obstetrician won’t be there to hold your hand through the hard parts of labouring. Depending on the circumstances, you may go through 3 shift changes and therefore have 3 different midwives caring for you. Through my research, many women commented on having wonderful midwives, only to find their shift came to an end and a stranger came in to take over and no rapport was present with this new midwife.

The benefit of a Doula/Independent Midwife is that they are with you for the entirety of the birth, through all the shift changes, helping to alleviate the stresses and interruptions that changing staff can bring.

I know, from speaking to many partners that there has been a reluctance to have a birth attendant, as there is a concern that she will take over. A birth attendant is there to support the couple and the birthing team. Many partners have reflected to me in my research of how they felt out of their depth when complications arose. Unless a partner has been around birth or is in the medical profession, they are also entering into an unknown world. What does ARM mean? Or perhaps a run of antibiotics for GBS? A birth attendant can help break down what certain procedures or protocols mean, so a couple can then choose the best course of action for them. As well as support throughout the pregnancy, sharing information and physical support throughout the labour, i.e. massage and touch, a birth attendant is there to hold the space for the woman emotionally. Most birth attendants or doulas are mothers and know full well what an intense experience giving birth is. With their own personal experience and understanding of the birthing process, they are able to empathise, inspire, support and encourage women through the intense journey of birth. When a woman is frightened or tired or anxious, a birth attendant can look her in the eye and know how she feels and share the incredible mystery of what it takes to bring your baby into the world.

According to DONA (Doulas of North America), they explain how doulas fit into the birth team:

“Women have complex needs during childbirth. In addition to the safety of modern obstetrical care, and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualised care based on their circumstances and preferences. The role of the birth doula encompasses the non-clinical aspects of care during childbirth.”

And on top of all that she can provide at the birth, a doula or Independent Midwife is also present for postnatal support, ensuring the continuity of care. Most doulas and Midwives visit you at home after your baby is born and can assist with breastfeeding or any other practical household concerns you may have. I have also found in my own experience how beneficial birth debriefing can be. 1 week, 2 weeks or 6 weeks after the birth, I find it is very important for a woman to talk about her birth experience, particularly if there was some form of trauma or dissatisfaction. Having been at the birth, the birth attendant can also give her side of the story and help the mother to explore any unresolved feelings.

So where do you look if you want to find extra support?

Unfortunately, Independent Midwives are becoming less common these days as there is often far too many hoops they have to jump through to stay eligible in our current birthing client. The extra benefit of an Independent Midwife is that she can also carry out medical checks when you are at home and you also have access to her great medical knowledge. (Doula's don't do this)

You can find some Independent Midwives listed here:

http://www.midwivesaustralia.com.au/

For Doulas or a trained Birth Attendant, there are quite a few options. The trick is to interview a few Doulas and ask lots of questions and find the person who feels right for you. You and your partner want to feel safe with the doula you choose and also get a sense that the doula is on the same page as you. This is your birth, not the doulas, so it's important that you feel there is no pressure from her to birth in a certain way.

In Australia, you can find doulas at:

https://findadoula.com.au/

http://www.australiandoulas.com.au/

http://www.birthattendants.info/ (Victoria only)

http://australiandoulacollege.com.au/

http://www.douladirectory.com.au/

Or word of mouth is also a great way to find a birth support person that could be right for you.

So it's worth looking more into your birth team when it comes to the big day. To have a good birthing experience not only enables you to feel empowered as a woman, it also gives you added confidence on the amazing journey of mothering.




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