Doulas, deliveries and a documentary

Josh Pennell Josh.pennell@thetelegram.com
Published on October 1, 2014

A program by the Doula Collective of Newfoundland and Labrador is raising money for people to be able to have the doula experience and support during pregnancy, labour and postpartum, regardless of their economic means.

One of the ways they’re doing that is by showing a documentary that questions medical interventions used in pregnancy and labour and the effect these could have on the health of children.

Sarah Minty is the chair of the Doula Collective of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“What we hope is that we can sort of build a healthy enough bank account that if someone wanted to avail of doula support and couldn’t quite do it, they could apply to us for some subsidy,” she says.

Doula experience

A doula differs from a midwife, who has medical training and can perform medical tasks, including deliveries. Doulas offer support to birthing women, prenatally and during the postpartum period.

“Doulas are there to offer physical comfort measures, emotional support and information support. We don’t have any medical training at all. We don’t do any clinical tasks. But we are trained in how to help a mom find some comfort in non-medical ways during her childbirth,” says Minty.

That’s not to say they are not trained for the support they offer. The doulas who want to be part of the provincial collective have certain criteria they must meet. There is in-person training, required reading, paper writing and breastfeeding support training that is required. They also have to attend births and have their performance evaluated by the medical and non-medical people there.

There are currently more than 15 active doulas in the province.

“There’s a common myth that doulas only support sort of natural childbirth and that’s not exactly true. Of course, we do support natural childbirth practices, but we also support taking an active role in their care and going after the birth experience that (women) hope for,” says Minty.

And with the subsidy program, they’re hoping to open up the option of that experience to more people.

But they’re doing so in some educational ways that encourage women to ask questions about their birth experience, if they so wish.

Documentary

This week, the group had a showing of a documentary called “Microbirth” on the Memorial University campus. The documentary analyzes the microscopic events occurring during pregnancy and childbirth, theorizes on the importance of those events and questions how changing medical practices could compromise evolutionary happenings meant to protect newborns throughout their lives.

The microbiome takes centre stage in the documentary — the mass collection of microorganisms found on, in and around humans that have a huge impact on our immune systems. The documentary looks at the interventions, such as cesarean sections, used in childbirth, how they may be affecting what would normally happen in childbirth and how they might compromise the human microbiome.

“Do they have an impact, little by little, on the microbiome of our newborns?” Minty asks. “It’s sort of poking us and asking us, look at the rise in certain diseases that are all happening at the same time.”

The interventions were invented for a reason, but weren’t initially meant to be a norm. The documentary also questions the harm of reeling in the interventions to see if it makes a difference rather than waiting for generations to go by to look for trends.

“It doesn’t really give us any answers. It asks us a lot of questions about does how we give birth have an impact on the lifelong health of our children,” says Minty.

The documentary also relates to the doula philosophy that women deserve to have the childbirth experience they want and whether practices that have increasingly become the norm — such as cesarean sections — are what’s best for mother and child.

“It’s not talked about enough,” says Minty. “It’s just sort of taken for granted, this is the process that you go through. This is the process of childbirth in our hospitals and we have so very few options in this province, so there you go. Why ask too many questions about it?”

Anybody wanting to learn more about the film can visit microbirth.com.

Anybody interested in learning about the Doula Collective of Newfoundland and Labrador or contributing to the subsidy program can check out doulacollectivenl.ca.

josh.pennell@thetelegram.com