February 15, 2017
Volume 19, Issue 4
Midwifery Today E-News
“Doulas”
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In This Week’s Issue



What is a doula?

MT store Learn about doulas, what they do and why they are important in Doulas, an e-book from Midwifery Today. Articles include “The Doula Phenomenon and Authentic Midwifery: Protection as a Keyword” by Michel Odent, “A Birth Doula for Every Mother” by Allie Chee and “A Doula’s Bag-of-Tricks: What’s in It for You?” by Debra Pascali-Bonaro.

Available on Amazon or on Smashwords in a variety of formats.



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Quote of the Week

If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.

John H. Kennell, MD


The Art of Midwifery

I asked birth doulas across the country to describe their multifaceted roles in just one sentence. There is a generally accepted definition of the role, with room for fine nuances to match every doula’s and mother’s ability, experience and desire. Ultimately, the role of the doula is whatever the mother and doula decide together the role should be.

Allie Chee
Excerpted from “A Birth Doula for Every Mother,” Midwifery Today, Issue 104
View table of contents / Order the back issue



Midwifery Today Conferences

Eugene conferenceTake two half-day classes with Elizabeth Davis!

In Physical Exam and Prenatal Assessments in the Holistic Model of Care, Elizabeth will discuss classic physical exam and prenatal assessment skills, with attention to making these assessments valuable experiences for both client and practitioner. In the afternoon, the Pelvimetry and Its Application in Labor session will feature hands-on practice of the endangered art of pelvimetry with instruction on how to use this skill appropriately.

Part of our conference in Eugene, Oregon, April 2017.



East Coast mini-conference Attend a one-day conference on the East Coast USA this May!

Choose from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; the Boston area; and New York City. Your teachers will be Gail Hart (pictured), Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos and Jan Tritten. Topics discussed will include Visions and Dreams for Birth Change, New and Old: Techniques for Controlling and Preventing Hemorrhage and Scientific Basis for Traditional Techniques. There will also be a Tricks of the Trade sharing session.

Learn more about our East Coast Mini-Conferences, May 2017.



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Editor’s Corner

My First Birth as a Doula

[Editor’s note: This issue’s guest editorial is by Shea Hardy Baker.]

It was 2:30 am when I received my first call as a birth doula. As birth workers, we all remember the feeling of our first call, the moment when we follow our calling, finding and trusting our instincts and watching in wonder the absolute magical moment of a woman in her full power bringing forth a new being Earth side. Admittedly, I was nervous, having never attended a birth before (including never having birthed a baby of my own), newly trained and without my doula mentor. I clearly recall thinking to myself, “What am I doing? I have no business helping a woman have a baby! I’ve never even had a baby of my own!” The words of my trainer popped into my brain at that moment offering words of encouragement: “Shea, no single birth is the same. The most important thing you can bring to the birth space as a doula is your presence, and only use your hands when your instinct calls for it!”

Pulling my birth bag behind me, nerves from head to toe with an equal amount of excitement, I walked the quiet halls of the hospital on my way to her room. I distinctly remember passing through the doorway; my nerves evaporated, and I immediately knew I was home. It is so hard to put perfectly into words how I felt in that moment. Those of you for whom birth work is a calling will relate. It was a powerful moment as a young woman to discover where I knew I needed to be. There were moments where being an advocate was equally as important as knowing when to be more physically present, when to be the quiet presence bearing witness and letting my instinct guide my hands when needed. I was blessed to experience and bear witness to a powerful and connected natural hospital birth.

After a full night’s sleep, I still had the after birth glow, having watched the most moving, powerful experience I could possibly ever fathom, until my own son was born eight years later. Literally for two days after, I would take a deep breath and the sweet earthy smell of birth was there as if it had just happened. It was the only time in my long career as a doula where the smell stayed with me long after leaving the birth. Even now as I sit here typing, recalling with misty eyes those first moments on my doula path, the smell of a new sweet baby, the power of a woman, the most love a space can hold is all right there viscerally experienced in my memory’s presence.

— Shea Hardy Baker is the new conference coordinator for Midwifery Today. She became a birth and postpartum doula in 2003 in Eugene, Oregon. In August of 2003, she co-founded the non-profit organization Doulas Supporting Teens (DST), which sadly closed its doors in 2012. Shea lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband and young son and still has the pleasure of serving doula clients several times a year. Shea is an active member of the community dedicating herself to raising awareness and funding for women’s health and safety in the Eugene/Springfield communities through Makaba Arts and Entertainment Fundraising Collective.

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Conference Chatter

We have many amazing projects going on to help further the cause of midwifery and optimal births for all women around the world.

Our Eugene conference, “The Heart and Science of Birth,” is April 5–9, 2017. I am looking forward to getting to meet at least some of you. We have an excellent program with 40 speakers and 55 classes. We are especially pleased to have researcher Chandler Marrs with us.

We also have our Finland program done. “Trust, Intimacy and Love: The Chemistry of Connection” is our theme and the dates are 4–8 October 2017. Go here for the Finland program.

We are going to the East Coast of the US for three mini-conferences. It is all the same great information but in a one-day program, which is also live. We are offering CEUs, fun and inspiration at these one-day learning opportunities.

If you cannot travel for an event but want to join a Midwifery Today event, we now offer online classes. Watch this space!

— Jan Tritten

Keep up to date with conference news on Facebook: General conference news


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Featured Article

Doula Phenomenon and Authentic Midwifery: Protection as a Keyword

“I am your bodyguard.”

This is how Liliana Lammers, a highly experienced London doula, answered a question asked by a young pregnant woman. This was a concise way to suggest in daily language the importance of the concept of protection. Today, physiological perspective supports this answer.

In current scientific context, the birth process can be presented as an involuntary process, since it is under the control of archaic brain structures, such as the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. One cannot help an involuntary process, but there are situations that can inhibit it. Modern physiology can identify these situations, such as situations associated with a release of adrenaline and situations associated with neocortical stimulation. In other words, the birth process needs to be protected against inhibiting factors.

Understanding that an authentic midwife is first a protective person leads us to recall that among mammals, including human mammals, the mother is the prototype of the protective person. This is a way to suggest the importance of the personality of the midwife/doula, ideally perceived as a mother figure. The physiological perspective and the intuitive midwife/doula agree to identify the factors against which a laboring woman needs to be protected: language (the main stimulant of the human neocortex), light (another stimulant of the cortex), the proximity of persons releasing adrenaline (adrenaline release is highly contagious), inappropriate ambient temperature, any situation or device that can give a laboring woman the feeling that she is observed, etc.

This paradigm supported by modern physiology must be contrasted with the current dominant conditioning. For thousands of years the basis of our cultural conditioning has been that a woman is not able to give birth without some kind of cultural interferences. This is illustrated by the roots of the words used in daily language. For example obstetrics (from Latin obstetrix, “the midwife”) implies that a woman cannot give birth without somebody staying in front of her (“ob-stare”). Many rituals have made the active presence of an agent of the cultural milieu still more necessary. For example, in cultural milieus where they practice ritual genital mutilation, somebody must be there to cut the hard perineal scar. The widespread ritual of rushing to cut the cord also implies the necessary presence of an active person.

This deep-rooted cultural conditioning has been reinforced recently by factors other than beliefs and rituals. Some theories have been influential. For example, the theories of Pavlov have been at the root of many schools of natural childbirth promoting the idea that to give birth a woman needs a guide telling her how to breathe, how to push, etc. In the age of videos, photos and television, one cannot ignore that our current cultural conditioning is mostly determined by visual messages. Let us mention the powerful effects of the recent epidemics of videos and photos of so-called “natural childbirth.” Almost always, several people surround the labouring woman. Young generations familiar with these pictures understand that the basic need of a labouring woman is to be accompanied by several persons. The effects of these visual messages are reinforced by the modern vocabulary, for example, to give birth women need a “coach” (bringing her expertise) and support persons (bringing their energy). More than ever the message is that a woman has not the power to give birth by herself.

Michel Odent
Excerpted from “Doula Phenomenon and Authentic Midwifery: Protection as a Keyword,” Midwifery Today, Issue 104
View table of contents / Order the back issue


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Keep up to date with new products and specials!

MT store Sign up for Midwifery Today Store News and learn about special promotions sent only to newsletter subscribers. You’ll also receive notices of other specials and information about new products. Expect no more than two e-mails a month. To sign up



Discover the essentials of supportive touch

MT store In Touch Techniques for Birth, Leslie Piper, LMT, and Leslie Stager, RN, LMT, show you how to make touch a part of your midwifery practice. You’ll learn about contraindications, acupressure, reflexology, hydrotherapy, general comfort strokes, pain relieving techniques and more. A special feature includes a midwife’s story of the use of belly rub and emotional support to encourage labor. This DVD belongs in your midwifery library! To order



Discover The Power of Women

MT online store When you read this book by Sister MorningStar, you’ll discover how healing words and empowering stories help women listen to their instincts during childbirth. Filled with inspiring, moving stories, The Power of Women will lift the veils from your eyes and let you view the world in a new way. Give it to the pregnant women you know. Help them see the power that resides within them. To order



Do you work with laboring women?

MT store Then you need the sixth edition of Anne Frye’s Healing Passage, A Midwife’s Guide to the Care and Repair of the Tissues Involved in Birth. Even if you have an earlier version, you’ll want this one, which is more than twice as long as the fifth and packed with vital information about the art and science of perineal care and repair. The anatomy section has been completely overhauled, the suturing lessons have been expanded and the information about tear repair has been updated. You’ll also find a completely new pelvic floor model with pattern and instructions in the appendices. To order



Website Update

Read this article excerpt from Midwifery Today magazine, Winter 2016, now on our website:


Join us in Finland this October!

Finland conference Plan now to attend our conference in Helsinki, Finland, 4–8 October 2017. “Trust, Intimacy and Love—The Chemistry of Connection” will offer over 40 different classes, including a full-day session on Midwifery Skills and two full-days on Rebozo Techniques and Practice.

Part of our conference in Helsinki, Finland, October 2017.



Birth Q&A

Q: Did you use a doula for your birth? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

— Midwifery Today

A: Back when I had my children in the 1980s, I had a friend who was also a nurse attend all of our births. She was even allowed back into the OR when I birthed my twins vaginally. I didn’t realize then that she was my “doula.” I remember how comforting she was and as the years went by, I found myself filling that same role for friends and family. After many years, I became an official doula. I will be attending my 500th birth next month. It is an honor to support families during this most memorable experience; it is a calling I don’t take lightly.

— Dianne Hamre

A: I have had a couple of my laboring women use doulas, but most can’t afford them. Many of my immigrant and refugee women have extended family members who fulfilled that roll very nicely. We also had a wonderful Arabic interpreter who came to the births of our Arabic women. There was only one “official” doula, but there were lots of supporting women surrounding the woman in labor. It was magnificent. The female power in the birth room was palpable and powerful.

— Vicki Gilbert Ziemer

A: My own mom was my doula. She didn’t know it, and I’d never heard of a “doula” at the time, but she gave me everything I needed to birth my babies.

— Andrea Reynolds

A: I am a doula myself, so of course I used a doula for my own labors and births. It was super helpful in so many ways. She kept me focused, brought me a smoothie and unscrewed light bulbs so I could have dimmer lighting like I wanted, among many other little details. She kept my tub water warm and my washcloth cool. She cooked soup, took photos and encouraged me. Most importantly, at my second birth, she stood outside the bathroom door and checked in with me to find out if I needed help as baby was about to arrive! I had just been checked less than 20 minutes before and told I was 6 cm and had a long way to go, so the rest of my team was down the hall. Without her, I would have given birth by myself, and I very much wanted my husband there and for my midwife to catch the baby. Thanks to the constant presence of my doula, I was able to have that.

— Rose Peck

A: I’ve been a doula for 16 years already, and I wouldn’t dream of birthing without a doula. I had three births (two homebirths and one in a hospital) with a midwife and a doula.

— Naomi Gattegno


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