Saturday, July 30, 2011

DOULA support during birth

Paramount to a satisfying birth experience for many women is having the support of a massage therapist or doula––a caregiver specialized in offering laboring women emotional encouragement and physical touch. More than the relief of pain, it is the emotional support and safety that develops between these types of birth companions and the laboring woman that helps her to feel empowered to cope with her contractions and which leads her to a sense of satisfaction about her birth.

If women have an unsafe environment with no solid emotional support during birth, fear and accompanying stress increase. When people experience stress, hormones called catecholamines, such as adrenaline, are released into the bloodstream.Catecholamines cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respirations and divert blood away from digestion.

They also relax smooth muscle. Fearful thoughts during labor, such as the fear of pain, fear of the unknown, fear of the coming contraction––are stressful, causing an increase in circulating catecholamines which can relax the uterine smooth muscle and result in slowed or stalled contractions. Fear is also often accompanied by shallow breathing, muscular tension, and vaso-constriction,24,25 responses which further diminish effective uterine contractility. Essentially, if the laboring woman subconsciously or consciously suspects her environment is not safe for any reason, labor will often stop, and for good reason––who wants to birth a baby into a dangerous situation? Inadequate support or distracting touch can add to a woman’s dis-ease and fear.

One way to create a safe birthing environment and reduce the mother’s stress is to have a support team or individual with her during birth. Over the past two decades, studies representing over 12,700 women have demonstrated that positive support and nurturing touch creates more personally satisfactory birth experiences for women, decreases medical interventions, and speeds labor.
(Excerpted from Nurturing Massage for Pregnancy: A Practical Guide to Bodywork for the Perinatal Cycle, by Leslie Stager)

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