...and they're multiplying like rabbits...I'm really glad!
I just got back from DONA (the oldest doula conference in the world), where over 300 doulas gathered in Atlanta this year to share stories, learn from one another, and consider ways to strengthen their services to expectant and new parents. I was honored to share the HUG Your Baby materials. As is true in most teaching, I learned far more than I taught.
The origins of the doula movement is really a lovely story--a story which shows that sometimes the best things we found are not what we thought we were looking for!
Last year at DONA (in Vancouver) I heard this story from Dr. J. Kennell, one of the founders of the doula movement. Those interested in the DONA story sat around a small table for this history lesson. We heard of how Dr. Kennell and colleagues were doing research on breastfeeding in Guatemala in a crowded and NOISY hospital. Because the hospital was so busy, few family members were allowed in to support the laboring woman. Most laboring women labored alone.
Labor without support can be a noisy proposition. It was so noisy, in fact, that the researchers were having trouble concentrating on their important research. In desperation they sent a local woman to sit with a laboring woman to see if things might quiet down. It did get quieter. In fact, all kinds of differences were noted in the lives of laboring women who had another woman come and "sit" with them. Soon this "sitting" was of more interest to the reserachers than the original breastfeeding study. Thus the doula movement was born--right there in that Guatemalan hospital.
Their research (and several subsequent studies) showed the dramatic impact doula support has:
Length of labor - Without doula, 19 hours; with doula, 9 hours (Guatemalan Study)
Natual childbirth (no analgesia, pitocin, forceps) - Without doula, 12%; with doula, 55%; (Houston study)
Epidural rate - Without doula, 55%; with doula, 8% (Houston study)
Breastfeeding only - Without doula 29%; with doula, 51% (Johannesburg Study)
Though a nurse by profession, I am a doula at heart! It is so inspiring to be surrounded by women who know that their knowledge, skills, and compassion can change the world, one birth at a time!