One woman's path through doula training, childrearing, and a computer science Ph. D. program

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Book report: The Doula Book

Klaus, Kennell & Klaus, The Doula Book, 2nd edition, 2002

My score


Amazon link

My review

This little paperback provides an overview of the duties, benefits, and experiences of a doula. The first four chapters take the reader on a touchy-feely journey on the good things about having a doula before and during labor. The following four chapters provide summaries of randomized trials regarding doula care. Every trial concludes that having an emotional support person (doula) present continuously throughout labor and delivery significantly reduces the chance of intervention, from epidural to C-section. The most shocking study is from Guatemala, in which the labor and delivery experience was half a dozen women in a single room, attended by one nurse that comes and goes, with no pain relief. It sounded like my mom's birth experience. In Guatemala, half of the women were assigned a doula that stayed with the women throughout labor; their success rates as far as minimal intervention were phenomenally higher. The Dublin Experience is a case study of a maternity hospital in Dublin, Ireland that assigns each mother a nurse midwife during labor; the intervention rates at this hospital are incredibly low and the maternal experience is rated incredibly highly. Moreover, the length of labor is decreased compared to the labor length at the same hospital prior to the introduction of the constant emotional support person. Finally, postpartum care is addressed from the point of view of a postpartum doula, who helps with breastfeeding, care of the newborn and the parents (who, it is pointed out, also need to be mothered during this delicate time), and household chores.

The appendices are arguably the most useful sections of the book as a reference (although the summaries of the trials were interesting as well). Appendix A discusses the training of a doula and how a doula prepares for her work. Additionally, the appendix discusses what happens to the laboring woman during the stages of labor, how a doula can help, and ways she can tell that it's time to seek medical attention. Methods of interacting with a woman that has undergone abuse are discussed. Appendix B lists in detail several self-hypnosis and relaxation meditations.

Many of the findings are summarized here, in Touch and Labor in Infancy.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Welcome to my blog.

I am an engineering student in the start of my Ph. D. program, and also in training to be a birth doula. Alternate titles included L.E.D.: Light-emitting doula; Doula Diode; and Help! Have you seen my doula?

If you're like my mother, you'll ask, "Why doula? Isn't engineering grad school enough?"

No, it isn't, and I'll tell you why.

I've heard, in small pieces, my mother's birth story --- me --- in horrid hints dropped over dinner and bursts of vivid, awful memories while shopping for baby clothes. She's never told me in one sitting. I don't think she can put the whole experience into words, what a Soviet birth was like. When I told her about the Guatemala City doula study, and the conditions under which these women gave birth, she says, "So what? You were born just like that, too."

I am a milk donor. Every few weeks, a nice lady in a Prius drives to my house and picks up little round bottles and plastic bags filled with my frozen milk. My mother tried her best to breastfeed me, despite mounds of misinformation which, because it was from the mouths of doctors, she followed to a tee. She developed recurring mastitis, which was treated by letting it get out of hand, and then operating. After the first operation, she fed me on one side, because the other was draining half blood, half milk. After the second operation, we supplemented with a generous neighbor's milk. The operations left her with giant, uneven scars on her right breast.

I am a milk donor because my mother wasn't, but could have been.

And in this light, I want to be a doula to be able to do for women what my mother never had in childbirth. I want to support women in labor so they feel empowered, not frightened; so that their needs are met; so that their desires are accommodated. So when these new mothers look back on their birth experience, they can say, "I am a stronger person; my body and I know how to birth a baby."

Do you know how to birth a baby?

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