I am coming to The Doula Book recently via my When Survivors Give Birth Educator training. When I was pregnant, I was very sure that I wanted a birth doula, especially later on so it didn’t occur to me to seek out a book to help me make this decision. But after reading it, I’m so glad that I did find it because it is just a terrific resource for a first time pregnant woman and her partner as they navigate the journey of education and decisions toward their childbirth experience. The Doula Book examines all facets of what it is like to have a trained labor companion, or birth doula, accompany a woman and her family during childbirth as well as the why’s and how’s about this decision.
The authors of The Doula Book, two medical doctors and a family therapist, look at the issue of a doula from all possible angles including medical and emotional reasons why a pregnant woman might look to support from a doula. I think this is one of the strongest aspects of the book. It feels like there are a lot of books that look at what is happening with the woman, physically, over the course of her pregnancy but not as many that focus on the whole person, as this book does.
As an example, the book talks about doula “basics” that one might expect (a doula might suggest different positions for the laboring woman, experienced doulas are respected by medical personnel, etc.) but beyond the practicality, there is as strong an emphasis on the emotional support that the doula provides. And this piece is especially important for women who are survivors to be aware of.
All women are wary of labor and many do fear it but survivors have an entirely different set of challenges when it comes to childbirth. The Doula Book does an excellent job of talking about, in a more generalized way without mentioning survivors, how triggers (“excretions, sounds, sights, smells, cries or screams may trigger old memories of hospitalization or elicit other unexpected reactions.” 47) can come up in childbirth and why a doula is such an important person to have on hand to be there for the laboring woman. Later on in the chapter called “Reducing Discomfort, Pain and Anxiety”, the authors talk about reducing stress in labor and the flight / fight response. The connection is made back to the doula whose purpose is to create that cocoon of support and care that laboring women need in order to feel protected and informed enough to birth their baby. By telling us “Letting the woman say what she wants is the cornerstone of doula care. ” (69), the reader can see why this is so important in labor, especially for the survivor.
The Doula Book is a rich resource for the evidence behind using a doula in childbirth. For those science-y, non believers, there is plenty of research in the book that talks about the relationship between satisfaction with the childbirth experience; the numbers in studies that looked at the relationship between having a birth doula and the prevalence of sections and much more. But for the pregnant woman who might need to hear more about why the emotional support that a doula is so crucial, The Doula Book will become her go-to guide.
And if you are local pregnant woman looking for more emotional support, remember my support group: 2nd Thursday of each month (this Thursday!) from 6:30-8:30 pm at Outside The Mom Box offices, 1200 Broad Street Suite 104 in Durham.