Doulas- Providing Family Centred Support

Doula (pronounced 'doo-la') is a Greek word meaning 'woman servant or caregiver'. Through pregnancy, birth and postpartum, a doula provides emotional and physical support to women, partners and families. To be a doula is to 'mother the mother', supporting the family with education about the physiology of labour and comfort measures she may like to draw from, debriefing any previous births, providing tailored support and advice and helping them create a birth plan or preference list if they so desire. She will attend their birth from home to hospital- holding a calm, joyful and confident space while providing massage, heat packs, hip squeezes and uplifting words. She believes in the mother's ability to give birth in perfect time, in her perfect way and supports her to make conscious, informed decisions to ensure that she feels satisfied and empowered along the way.

Doulas are growing in popularity fast here in Australia, as a result of positive word of mouth referrals and the need for increased support. As our hospitals become more and more stretched for staff and resources, families are realizing what a wonderful asset a doula can be for their support team. Midwives and obstetricians take care of the clinical side of things, while a doula provides continuous support and reassurance. The way a woman is treated during her birth stays with her for the rest of her life. The proven benefits of having continuous support during birth from a person outside the mother's family or social circle is associated with reduced mortality rates, improved overall health of the mother and the baby, shorter labor time and a lower need for medical intervention or pain relief. In addition, a doula's support provides a solid foundation for their new lives going forward, improving the entire family's mental, emotional and physical health.

In addition to pregnancy and birth support, a doula may also offer in home postpartum support visits. During these visits she will check in on the mother's emotional and physical well being, offer feeding and settling advice if needed, debrief the birth with her, look after her baby or older children for her while she sleeps, showers, bathes or enjoy a home massage and perform light housework duties. If desired, a postpartum doula may also source ingredients and cook meals for the mother that are specifically designed to promote healing after birth and increase breast milk supply. This enables the mother to rest, sleep, feed and enjoy her baby. She may like to follow the principles of the '40 days of rest' observed by women in traditional cultures in order to recover well and replenish her energy after pregnancy and birth.

Here in Canberra you can learn more about us and find a student or graduate doula to support your family on the links below. We are a large, growing community offering a wide range of additional services and we wholeheartedly encourage you to connect with a few of us in order to find the perfect doula for you!



Author- Kellie Hermes, Adorabirth

Learn more about Kellie's unique services here:

Preparing For Labour and Birth

While every pregnancy is unique, the trimesters of pregnancy have a natural progression that can be both exciting and challenging. The first trimester is well known as the time of ‘morning sickness’ which for many women should really be called ‘all day sickness’! The second trimester, if you’re lucky, can be a wonderful time of renewed energy, continuing exercise, work and just getting on with it!

It’s not often until the third trimester that pregnant women begin to focus on getting set-up for the arrival of the baby, known as ‘nesting’, and reality sets in - this growing baby inside your swelling belly will need to come out!

These days, for many pregnant women there are several options for:

●      the type of birth you choose (or at least - plan for!)

●      location of labour and birth (home, conventional hospital, birth centre or water)

●      who supports you through your labour and birth (obstetrician, midwife, doula) and,

●      the many painkillers available, if needed.

In many ways, these options have supported women to have the right to choose how they plan for the birth of their child. On the other hand, the cascade of intervention has increased. Whatever your choices are around the many aspects of the coming labour and birth, it’s important to prepare so that you feel physically, emotionally and mentally strong. This way, you have the best chance of having the labour and birth you wish for.

Focus on grounding, earthing and opening

To bring your beautiful baby into this world requires a focus on lowering and opening your energy, and your body will follow suit. We often look at birth as the baby coming ‘out’, however it is more about the baby ‘moving down’ then out. This can be seen through the natural physiology of birth preparation. As you venture further into the third trimester, your baby’s head and body start to move lower down into your pelvis, this is known as ‘engaging’. It’s a sign that you and your baby are getting ready. Once you’re into the full swing of contractions, and you’re often fully dilated, you begin to feel ‘bearing down’ contractions which is an intense need to push down into your bottom to help the baby down and out.

This natural pull toward Mother Earth is why many women across the world give birth in a squatting, standing or kneeling position as these positions support the need to bear down and allow your body to best open up. Allowing your energy to lower, will also help you to calm your mind, rein in your emotions and balance your hormones - thus, the important phase of ‘nesting’. The key, therefore, is during your third trimester spend time grounding yourself by:

●      taking time out to calm your mind and emotions through activities that are relaxing (swimming, baths, gentle walks, reading, gardening, mindfulness - yes, go buy a colouring book, better yet - make something for the nursery!)

●      keeping an eye on your stress levels (this raises your energy up toward your head instead of lowering, and can knock out the balance of hormones)

●      spending time in a gentle and supported squatting position (prenatal yoga classes are wonderful for teaching this)

●      meditation and visualisation focusing on a smooth, safe and joyful labour and birth

●      practice breathing down into your body and sending your breath to where pain is so as to ease the sensation, and

●      sit and fold baby clothes and blankets!

Build your team

An integrative approach to your health and wellbeing throughout pregnancy is vital. By ‘integrative’, I mean accessing both the mainstream medicine field just as much as kinesiology, acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy and yoga. Many women who come for kinesiology report that the ease, success and recovery of labour and birth came down to how physically, emotionally and mentally fit they were.

Pregnancy is quite a ride; one full of wonder, awe, anxieties, fears, tears and joys. Be gentle on yourself with how you’re feeling and know that somewhere, around the world there’s another woman (if not, many more) feeling just like you. If you’re feeling worried or anxious about labour and birth, if you would like to check in on your body, hormones, emotions or mental strength for pain, if you would like to check in on your baby to see if s/he needs anything, or if you would like to learn cool tips and tricks then come along to Live Well for some kinesiology. It’s all about team work for you and your baby.

Pre-Natal Yoga

Somehow, in the wonderful way the western world has of taking an ancient teaching and morphing, modernising and making it their own, yoga has become a form of 'exercise' and quite recently something that women take up for the first time when they become pregnant. Prenatal yoga has become 'the thing to do' if you want to have a peaceful, healthy pregnancy.

I am all for more people participating in yoga but I'm also passionate about promoting the fact that yoga is far more than a physical activity performed in a room under the guidance of a self proclaimed modern guru.

So... With that out of the way!

What is it that yoga can offer pregnant women?

1. Space - whether you already have kids at home or you just need some time to yourself that's not at work or at home, prenatal yoga classes offer an opportunity for 60-90 mins of dedicated 'me time'. You get to be completely self- focussed, self-absorbed and self-centred in a fully sanctioned and supported way!

2. Rest - again, similar to the above, whether you're already a working mum of one or more or working while navigating the new territory of your first pregnancy, there are times you can feel completely exhausted. Prenatal yoga classes can offer you an opportunity to restore your energy

3. Strength/power - labor can be long. You need not only physical stamina but mental focus as well. Prenatal yoga can help build your physical strength and teach you skills to help direct your focus either towards calm when it's necessary or for commitment to tapping into your internal reserves of strength, stamina and determination in the face of fear and challenge.

4. Peace - the internal working of our minds and be loud, busy, hectic and chaotic - just as sometimes our lives are as well. Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean what you worry about stops or that the rest of your life and its demands stop either. Prenatal yoga is a place you can learn tools and techniques to manage the madness - whether it stems from internal stories and habits, or external forces and circumstances of your life. Practices such as pranayama and meditation are excellent tools for cultivating inner peace as they develop concentration, disciplined mental focus and help promote calming of the nervous system.

5. Connection - to others to your body/yourself to your baby. Especially in a transient town like Canberra, where many people may not have family or close friends available to support you through or talk to about your pregnancy, sometimes it can feel quite isolating. Prenatal yoga classes can be a great place to meet and connect with people who may be experiencing similar things to you! A good prenatal yoga class should feel like a safe space where you can share what's going on for you physically and emotionally and feel supported by your teacher and the group to hold space for you to express what you're feeling. Connecting with people is a great way to not feel like you're bearing the load or feeling fears, insecurities all on your own. Sharing and sometimes even just hearing others share how they feel can be so helpful in understanding you're not on your own.

During Pregnancy your body undergoes significant changes in physical, hormonal and emotional ways. Prenatal yoga can help you build a deeper understanding of how your body is changing. This knowledge of your mind/body connection can help you be aware of the changes your body undergoes in the stages of labour. Being present during the process - and applying some of the techniques of breath modulation, focussed mental commitment and physical stamina also learned in prenatal class - can help get you through your labor successfully.

Finally, the meditation, visualisation and breathing techniques you learn in prenatal yoga class can help build a closer, deeper connection between you and your baby. Energy flows where intention goes and Cultivating a relationship between you and your baby can begin long before you get to meet them face to face!

There are many more ways that prenatal yoga can be beneficial during your pregnancy and also how postnatal yoga can help you recover and return to physical and mental balance and health post pregnancy.