Giving birth is a true miracle; however, for expecting moms, it means a challenging nine months during which the body goes through innumerable changes. When a woman first gets pregnant, she knows how much her body and hormones will change. Yet, knowing and going through all these transformations are two separate things. Triggered by physical and hormonal changes, emotional ups and downs are some of the most challenging things an expecting woman can experience. Hence, getting help throughout the pregnancy and for childbirth provides the best experience over the nine months and during the crucial postpartum period.
To enjoy the miracle of childbirth, today most expecting and new moms are teaming up with childbirth companions, especially doulas.
Doulas in action
A doula is not a midwife or a physician. His or her job is to provide nonmedical care, which includes emotional support, physical comfort, informational support and advocacy to help families get answers to their questions so they can make decisions about their care. In short, doulas are moms-to-be's best friends.
Having a best friend that knows and understands all the transformations both physically and emotionally during pregnancy can lead to a more positive experience. There are many scientific studies that show doula care improves the pregnancy and birth experience. It has been proven that doula care improves the physical and psychological outcomes for both the mother and the baby.
Doulas do not have to be trained in physical and mental sciences but in some cases, it is a calling that no one can help but dive into. For example, psychologist Zeynep Kocamaz Öztürk did not start her career as a doula. After finishing her bachelor's degree in psychology, Öztürk had her first birth experience in Vienna and was stunned by the care midwives and doctors provide during labor.
"I was quite impressed by the support midwives offer during labor. A midwife's job is to assist with labor as well as give spiritual support to the mother. Since I was not a midwife, I could not offer medical care, but I thought I could help moms-to-be spiritually as a psychologist; hence, I decided to be a doula," Öztürk told Daily Sabah.
After Öztürk decided to specialize in doula services, she took a 200-hour course that included theoretical and practical classes as well as an internship at hospitals during actual births.
"A 200-hour course meets international standards; however, I advise those who want to be trained as doulas to stay away from online courses. Also, those interested can participate in the International Labor Psychology and Labor Teams Congress, the first of which will take place between June 28 and 30," added Öztürk.
When to get a doula
Finding a doula to help you through your pregnancy is important, but it is also important to find the right doula at the right time. For Sibel Esenalp, who is a childbirth educator and a doula, the best time to start working with a doula is after 12 weeks but due to the chaos of everyday life, expecting moms often start working with a doula around the 30th week.
"However, it is never too late to start working with a doula," said Esenalp, adding: "The breathing exercises that expecting moms need to start after the 12th week can be done by completing the exercises few times a day after the 30th week."
Öztürk, on the other hand, had many cases during which she met the mom-to-be only a couple of days before giving birth and helped her through the labor and postpartum period.
"The important thing is for the labor team and the mother to share the same perspective on labor and to work together in harmony," she added.
There are many services that doulas offer to expecting moms. Some doulas are experts when it comes to pre-birth consultations, during which the doula meets with the mom-to-be a couple of times before she goes into labor. A client does not have to meet the doula in person if she does not have a time. Doulas can provide text and email support as well. On the other hand, sometimes doulas not only consult but also guide their clients through labor and the challenges of giving birth. However, the help of a doula does not end when the baby is born. There are doulas who are also breastfeeding counselors, who help new moms and answer their questions about nursing.
help every step of the wayAlthough their services differ and some doulas are specialized in certain areas, in Turkey one doula usually provides all the services for the mothers.
Both Öztürk and Esenalp participate in the labor of their clients and prepare the mother for the process of giving birth, offering psychological and spiritual support rather than medical care.
"But when I enter the delivery room," said Öztürk, "I stop being a psychologist and focus on making the mother physically comfortable."
Every doula has his/her own techniques when participating labor. For instance, Esenalp is more into creating the most relaxed environment for the mother and father as well as the medical team. "I also get in touch with the medical team at the hospital and look into ways to get them ready for the labor physiologically," Esenalp added.
The labor only covers half of a doula's job. After the birth, especially if it is the couple's first child, doulas offer postpartum support not only to the new mother but also the father as well.
"I almost certainly pay a house visit to my clients after they give birth," said Esenalp. "A new baby means a new order in the house and a new experience for the parents. I give them tips to make this transition as smooth as possible. Some new moms need nursing and psychological support as well. In such cases, I help new moms to find the professional they need and help parents to get through the hardships."