“In India, people think that doctors are Gods. They bring their whole family to the hospital to give birth to their child. There is a lot of pressure(pun intended) on the mother and very little information, which results in unnecessary c-sections, inductions, and drugs”, declares a frustrated Millena Veruska Sehgal. She is a doula, and also the founder of Chandra Yog India,.
A talk with this vivacious lady left me overwhelmed with emotions. I was wishing I had met someone like her before I had my kid. A doula: someone who was there to hold my hand and give me the right information when it was so crucial, during labor. Her words resonated with my experiences so accurately that it was astonishing. Today, I want to raise some awareness about the profession of the doulas which is virtually unknown in our country. Here is some information based on my talks with this woman from Brazil, now settled in Hyderabad.
What does a doula do?
The primary role of a doula is to help the mother cope with labor by providing emotional & physical support. A doula is present during labor as a helping hand, to make sure the mother and her spouse are comfortable. She makes various suggestions to the woman to help in the progress of labor including walking, different positions, breathing exercises. She soothes the woman with regular massage and carries out comfort measures.
Most importantly, she provides you with information about the various procedures: before, during and post labor to enable the couple to make the best possible choices. Were any of you told during labor: We are going to rupture the membranes or let’s induce again to help the labor progress faster (C’mon though I am an avid google user, I did not exactly understand what this entailed, and just went along with whatever the doctor ordered! And left feeling violated due to lack of knowledge and certainty). That’s where a doula plays a crucial role: helping you understand what it means, laying out the options so that you can decide better or ask more questions to the doctor.
What she does not do is coax the couple into decisions or make any decisions on their behalf. Also, her communication is limited to the couple, not directly to the doctors.
A doula vs a midwife
Midwives and doulas complement each other’s roles but are not the same. A midwife is trained medically to assist in vaginal deliveries. She can carry out low-risk births without a doctor’s assistance. Doulas are there only to be your source of comfort and do not perform any nursing duties during labor.
A long way to go, but there is hope
A couple of generations ago, I believe Indians were well-versed in the natural process of birth and labor. Home births & midwife assisted births were common. Now, hospital births being the norm, improved mortality rates has also led to an increase in the number of unnecessary C-section births. Recently, the awareness about the importance of natural births, Lamaze techniques, unmedicated births has spread and more women are opting for natural deliveries. Currently, Healthy Mother, a Natural Birth Centre in Hyderabad, providing scientific midwifery services with 24 hours in-house emergency care and OB/Gyn backup has seen a greater degree of response.
Recently, a woman from a different city stayed in Hyderabad for 1.5 months because she wanted to give birth at the natural birthing center, another drove down there after her labor started!
We do hope that more well-equipped natural birthing centers crop up in India, and more people start opting for it.
Do you want to hire a doula?
Birth India is a good resource if you want to find a doula in your city.
Want to be a Doula?
The last word..
Birthing should be a beautiful experience. It should not be traumatic, definitely not a time when you are treated like a ‘piece of meat’. Many hospitals these days provide a 5-star experience: suite rooms, sumptuous meals, professional photos of you and your baby, even a romantic candle-light dinner with your spouse! But in my opinion, what a birthing mother really needs is to be felt taken care of, to feel like the right decisions have been made for you or by you, to give birth as naturally as possible, and to come out of the experience feeling complete. And I believe that is where a doula can help.
Thank you Millena Veruska Sehgal for the help and a truly meaningful conversation.