Doulas make a difference at Providence Medford's BirthPlace

July 12, 2013

Providence Medford Medical Center introduced its doula program in October 2011 with five volunteers. Since then women who have delivered their babies with the help of a Providence doula are raving about the no-charge, compassionate service. Today, 25 doulas volunteer at Providence BirthPlace with an average of seven mothers being supported each month by one doula. Doula services are offered free of charge to expectant mothers.

Doulas are women who are trained to provide continuous and nurturing physical, emotional and informational support to a mother during her labor and delivery. Studies have shown that when doulas attend the birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, there is less need for pain medications and Caesarean sections, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

“We nurture the woman through one of the life's most precious events, helping to make it a positive and memorable experience,” explains Tracy Hanson, doula coordinator for Providence BirthPlace. “Feedback that we receive from mothers, couples and family members has been awesome.”

Providence doulas are trained in the physiological and emotional aspects of childbirth.

“As a doula, I provide comfort measures and help the laboring mother with position changes, relaxation and breathing,” says Shayna Perkinson, a Providence doula.

Beyond seeing to the woman's comfort, the doula facilitates communication between the woman, her partner and medical staff. The doula can explain what is happening during the birthing process and provide information to allow the woman to make informed decisions about her experience.

“I honestly believe that every laboring mother can benefit from having a doula present,” says Anna Humphreys, a Providence doula. “We do not replace the medical staff nor the husband or partner. But we are a constant presence through labor and delivery and we are not emotionally biased. My main goal is to make sure the mom is comfortable, that she feels safe, well-informed and that her voice is heard. It’s her birth, not mine.”

To become a Providence doula, volunteers attend eight hours of training as well as a mentoring process that includes a minimum of eight hours of shadowing a Providence BirthPlace registered nurse and the Providence doula coordinator.

Providence BirthPlace doulas:
* Stay with the mother throughout her labor and delivery
* Provide emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint throughout the mother’s labor and delivery
* Assist the laboring mother with position changes, relaxation techniques, breathing and rhythmic guidance
* Advocate for laboring mother’s wishes
* Perceive their role as nurturing and protecting the mother’s memory of the birth experience
* Allow the birth partner to participate at his/her comfort level

For more information on becoming a doula volunteer, contact Tracy Hanson at 541-732-5717.