WATERVILLE - Two local doulas are helping to ensure new mothers are as healthy and happy as the babies they deliver.
Vanessa Huntley and Gina Martin of PinkMoon Doula and Wellness say while everyone wants the baby to be healthy and happy, the mother’s emotional well-being is an equally important part of the delivery.
“We support the mother’s needs,” says Huntley, who is also trained as an LPN. “Often the medical team doesn’t have time to reassure a frightened mom, or answer questions during the delivery. Doulas provide information and reassurance and can assist partners to offer practical comfort and support during the delivery, so they are part of the bonding experience.”
Doulas support expectant mothers before, during and after childbirth. Midwives and other medical practitioners will provide skilled medical care, but doulas also help serve as birth coach and advocate throughout the labor and delivery, as needed.
“It’s not the pain you remember, as much as the way you were treated and how you felt during the birth that stays with you,” said Huntley.
While the medical team looks after the physical needs of the mother and child, doulas can offer mom information, encouragement and physical aid.
She added the support begins late in pregnancy and provides continuous care during labour. Once the baby has arrived, doulas can help guide and support new mothers through the early stages of breastfeeding.
They can also provide support and education after the baby arrives. Postpartum doulas work in the family home assisting with light housework, meals, and respite care of the newborn while the parents shower and rest.
Doulas are unregulated in Nova Scotia. They work with the health-care system as independent contractors; not employees. Martin and Huntley are both certified doulas, although in Nova Scotia, this is not a requirement.
Training usually takes place over three days and offers an overview of pregnancy and labour, as well as practical skills in assisting with physical comfort. Studies have indicated doulas improve the physical and emotional outcomes for both mother and baby, and they have a positive effect on the well-being of the family.
Huntley and her PinkMoon partner Martin provide a range of services including reiki, belly casting, placenta encapsulation, and other placenta products. They have a selection of birthing equipment available for rent.
Martin, who is the mother of five children, has relied on doulas for all but one of her children’s births. Her first child arrived through an unexpected Caesarean birth and she says the last-minute decision interrupted her body’s natural process and left her with a traumatic experience.
“People say that a healthy baby is all that matters,” says Martin. “But that’s not true, a happy and relaxed mother will give birth naturally. There are simple techniques that can provide natural pain relief that can help make the difference between a positive experience and a traumatic one.”
Birth is a natural life transition and every woman’s body knows how to deliver a baby, she added. The key to an easier delivery is interpreting the body cues and learning not to resist contractions, she says. Giving birth is an overwhelming experience and too often women feel like they are losing control of their bodies and decisions are being made without their full understanding and consent.
“Doulas give women back their voices and remind them about their birth plans,” added Martin.
She has served as a doula for about 25 births, watching 24 newborns enter the world. She added that she also offers support during the tragic occasions when babies are lost by miscarriage, stillbirth, or other circumstances. She was asked to support one families through a stillbirth at 39 weeks.
“It was a little boy,” she said. “The parents were prepared for this, it was very peaceful. We took turns holding him until they were ready to let him go.”