Sunday, July 26, 2009

Penny Simkin on the Role of Doulas

Watch the video:

Penny Simkin, the co-founder of Doulas of North America (now DONA International), talks about using doulas for birth care and how the doula movement came about.
Midwifery Today Conference in Eugene, Oregon.
March 2009.

an excerpt:

"I'm Penny Simkin and I've been involved in childbirth work for 41 years. I have many interests in birth. But the one you're interested in right now is my interest in doulas. I am a doula. I accompany women in labor. I'm a childbirth educator. I'm the author of several books. I do train doulas. And I'm also a birth counselor. I try to assist people who are feeling a lot of anxiety about the upcoming birth or who have had a very disappointing birth experience. I try to help them to come to terms with that kind of thing.

One of the most recent additions to the maternity care team is the doula. A doula is a woman, usually a woman - not always, who is trained and experienced in childbirth. And she gets to know the couple before they have their baby. And she's with them from the time they need her in labor through the birth. Providing not only her continuous care, but also emotional support, reassurance, encouragement, hands-on comfort measures, some guidance on when to try this or that, and also helping her to get information that she might need. If a doctor or midwife is concerned about something and wants to change the plan, the doulas helps her understand what her choices are.

I got very interested in this whole concept from two sources, really. Way back in the early 1980s, we had some studies by Marshall Klaus and John Kennel and others in Guatemala that showed that the presence of a kind woman with women in labor made a difference in their outcomes. And I thought "Well, that's interesting." But I didn't do much about it. But then I did a study myself on women's long term memories of their birth experiences and what contributed to their satisfaction. And I found that women who were cared for well were the ones most likely to feel satisfied with their births. And women who felt that they were neglected or not respected or not listened to or left alone, they were the ones that were likely to feel very unsatisfied with their births. And this was over 20 years, when they were looking back 20 years to their birth experiences, that was what stood out. And I thought, "Gosh, we can't control a lot about labor - when it starts, how long it's going to be, whether its complicated- but we can control how we care for her."

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