Pain. Ouch! Why do we get pain?
Pain is your bodies way of getting your attention. It is a system in place in our bodies to protect itself. It is a “red flag” or “warning sign”. It is telling you something is happening that you need to pay attention to. Sometimes it is telling you to pay attention before you cause an injury. Sometimes it is telling you to stop what you are doing, sometimes it is telling you to do something else, sometimes it is telling you to rest. Pain accelerates healing, because we will rest injuries; most of us need a reminder to rest until healed.
So why am I talking about pain as a doula and as a lactation consultant? We can experience pain in labour and birth and with breastfeeding. The experiences differ, yet can over lap in areas.
In labour we experience pain for various reasons; to tell our body to pay attention to this very important event, to tell ourselves to get somewhere safe, to tell us to rest. Our pain can diminish if we listen to it during childbirth. It can lessen with support, safe people, rest. It can really be heightened when we are scared, not supported, not in a place we are comfortable and exhausted. We cannot stop this pain by stopping the process. Labour and birth need to continue so we have to simply find ways to cope (medical and non-medical options as needed). There are lots of options available and a doula always has ideas in her head about how to get women more comfortable. Good childbirth education classes can also give a good understanding of birth, how it works and how to make a plan to minimize the pain.
With breastfeeding there really is no degree of normal pain that we need to just work through. There is trauma, injury, infections, fear, stress, etc. Again, we need to figure out a way to cope. The body is saying “something is wrong, do something else” or “rest the breast” but, of course, that is easier said than done as babies nurse every couple hours around the clock for the first few days/weeks. This sort of pain needs to be addressed. Most causes of pain in breast-feeding is position and latch, so that is the starting point. If it continues, it is worth investigating further with skilled lactation help to stop the source of the pain, make a plan to heal from what is causing the pain, stop the source of the pain and get to comfortable breastfeeding. An IBCLC is a terrific resource for resolving these sorts of ongoing concerns.
The idea of Doula’s are based upon old, old history. Old birthing history has so many stories of women with women, supporting and uplifting, during birth. In today’s birthing world many things have changed from the past. Change is good, but can also lead to having good things getting lost in translation. Having solid support for the body & mind throughout birth is one of the things that was getting lost, but in recent years more and more women are choosing to hire a doula.
“Doula” means “Woman servant" or “caregiving" and we adopted it from Ancient Greek language. “Doula” has now come to mean someone who provides emotional, physical and informational support. Doulas nurture a woman and her partner throughout the birthing process and afterwards. Doulas learn the desires and wishes of the expecting mother and partner and help them meet their goals. If the goals need to change a doula helps facilitate the unexpected changes.
Doulas do not only attend home births - they attend all births. Doulas do not only attend water births - they attend to mothers wherever mother is comfortable. Doulas are still vital when a woman has a midwife - they are not the same, they are complimentary. Doulas do not replace the father or the support persons - they add an additional layer of support and help support the father and support persons.
What can you expect from a doula?
You can expect they will help you prepare and educate yourself for the birth.
You can expect they support your wishes for the birth.
You can expect them to be with you for the whole of the birth process from the time you need them.
You can expect them to listen to you and be compassionate to your emotional vulnerability.
You can expect they will hold a safe and protected space for you.
You can expect no judgement.
You can expect they will hold you up.
You can expect they will take your lead.
You can expect they will lead you when you don't know where you should be headed.
You can expect them to make your physical comfort priority.
You can expect them to make your emotional health priority.
What you can expect your doula NOT to do:
• Doulas cannot do medical exams, tasks, diagnose conditions or deliver babies. Doulas are NOT medical professionals.
The evidence for doulas show*
▪ 50% reduction in cesarean rate
▪ 25% shorter labor
▪ 60% reduction in epidural requests
▪ 30% reduction in pain medication use
▪ 40% reduction in forceps delivery
▪ 40% reduction in oxytocin (pitocin) use
*Stats from “Mothering the Mother” by and Marshall Klaus, John Kennell & Phyllis Klaus.
Choosing a doula can seem to be a difficult task, but keep in mind there is a doula out there for everyone.