Helping Families to Prepare
for Labour, Birth and Postpartum
Reality for many of us today is a fast-paced world where we often feel comfortable and in control. Sometimes in pregnancy but more often when baby arrives we no longer feel that we are in control of anything. In fact couples often describe labour and early parenting as exhausting and overwhelming. New parents are shocked at how a baby can turn their world upside down. Unrealistic expectations and not being prepared for the significant changes a new baby brings can lead to an increase in the incidence of baby blues and postpartum depression.
The increase in baby blues and postpartum depression can often be attributed to a decrease in the support new families receive. Extended family and community once filled the void we see today in labour and postpartum support. This once common occurrence allowed couples to have a better understanding and realistic expectations of pregnancy, labour, breastfeeding and postpartum from what they had seen and heard. There was always someone available to help the new family (not just a plethora of visitors). For many couples this is not their reality for various reasons; not living in close proximity to family, no involvement in community, grandparents still in the work force, strained family relationships and friends with no parenting experience. In recent years the Super Women Syndrome has appeared, this is where a new mom/family states and appears to be “in control” having everything together but behind closed doors this is far from the truth. Afraid or embarrassed to ask for support Moms and sometimes Dads often feel like they are a failure, feel isolated, have low self-esteem and lack confidence in their ability to parent. Establishing resources and a support network after baby arrives can have challenges. Without guidance, couples may not know what support to plan for. Many believe support will be available and delivered by healthcare providers, and are stunned to find out they are really on their own. Lack of support, lack of education and unrealistic expectations can lead to postpartum depression.
Doulas are a way couples can fill the traditional role that family and community once held. Doulas can help a new mom feel confident in her ability to birth and nurture her baby. If the term doula is not familiar to you, a labour doula is a non-medical professional whose only role is to be available to her client during pregnancy, labour and early postpartum. A doula respects cultural and religious differences. She offers current evidence based information and resources during prenatal visits and continuous support during birth. Physical and emotional support is the key component to a doula’s service. She is a neutral support who often lends a listening ear. The doula does not make decisions for the couple but through suggested readings and information she gives the couple options to a variety of aspects of labour, postpartum for mom and baby, breastfeeding and baby care. Doulas have couples identify their birth preference for labour and can help develop a postpartum plan. She has knowledge of birth and postpartum resources new parents may wish to access. Couples who hire a doula report feeling well supported and informed.
We know that doulas can play a role in a couples’ satisfaction with their birth experience which is a positive way to start parenting. Having the support of a doula can potentially cut the rate and severity of postpartum depression. Studies show that moms who are supported by a doula during labour and delivery have decreased depression, decreased anxiety, higher self-esteem and self confidence, than those moms who did not have doula support.
Doulas can help parents screen for signs of postpartum depression. The doula will take the time to make sure everyone is adjusting to the new baby, and will be able to offer suggestions on where to go for help and give suggestions for the new family to cope when difficulties arise.
Postpartum assistance may also be provided by a Postpartum Doula. A Postpartum Doula focuses support after the birth of the baby. Her support differs from the Labour doulas support in that a labour doula offers support during pregnancy, labour, birth and early postpartum and a postpartum doula works with the new family for as long as they desire support. She may even offer support overnight.
If you or someone you know is expecting or has a newborn and would like to discuss how a doula can have a positive impact on their birth and postpartum contact:
Doula Care A group of independent, like minded doulas, offering labour and postpartum support in Edmonton and surrounding area Mitzi Gerber CLD, LE(CAPPA) www.doulacare.vpweb.ca 780-450-0983
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