A doula may be the answer.
A trained, nonclinical support person for both mother and child, a doula is present through the later stages of prenatal care, birth or the first days of postpartum. "A doula takes care of the emotional experience," says Amanda Spakowski, a birth doula and founder of The Nesting Place, a Toronto-based company offering prenatal classes and doula care to expecting parents. "They support the birth, diffuse fear, and ensure everyone feels involved in the process of the birth."
It's important to keep in mind that a doula does not take the place of a medical professional: They augment the childbirth team through direct, continuing support of the parents.
Studies have shown the presence of a doula on the childbirth team can have positive physiological effects on mother and child, including decreased chance for medical intervention in the birth, shorter labours and greater success rates in breastfeeding.
Consider what type of doula care you are requiring
There are three types of doulas:
• An antipartum doula focuses on prenatal care. They are commonly used through high-risk or difficult pregnancies, and can be an intermediary between parents and health-care providers to enhance communication and understanding.
• A birth doula focuses on giving both mother and father continuous care and emotional support in childbirth. They are knowledgeable of the physiology of childbirth and can answer key questions through the stages of the birth.
• A postpartum doula supports the first days without the presence of a health-care provider. Care may include support with breastfeeding, identifying signs of postpartum depression and helping parents navigate the adjustment of bringing the new baby home.
There are several considerations in choosing who will be your doula.
1. What are your initial needs in pregnancy and childbirth? You may have a high-risk pregnancy, chance of premature birth, nutrition concerns or need for a lactation consultant. Doulas have varied education and training backgrounds and may have a background in the area you need.
2. Is she/he certified to provide doula care? DONA International and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association are the two most prominent organizations in Canada for certifying and training doulas.
3. What qualities in a person do you need to see to feel comfortable and at ease? Remember that a doula will see you at your most vulnerable, so it's important to find someone you have a real compatibility with.
4. What are the needs of the father? Fathers may also need support and care in the childbirth process.
5. What is your budget for doula care? Government funding does not cover this service. The fees for doula care vary across the country. In Toronto, for example, the common rate is $800-$1,000. Postpartum doulas charge per visit.
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