Childbirth is one of the most physically and emotionally taxing times of a woman’s life, and having strong support in place is key to a positive birth experience. As a doula, Jeanne Hauguel of Birth Story advocates on behalf of the parents-to-be who work with her.
“A doula is a professional trained in childbirth, who provides emotional, physical and educational support to a mother who is expecting a baby, is experiencing labour, or has recently given birth,” she says. While they don’t provide medical care, doulas are knowledgeable in the medical aspects of labour and birth. “This means they can help parents gain a better understanding of procedures and complications that may arise in late pregnancy or during birth,” says Jeanne. “We help parents get prepared for the most memorable day of their life!”
An extra advocate in hospital
Unlike in other countries, where a midwife-supervised home birth can be an option, most women who give birth in Hong Kong will deliver their baby in a hospital. This can mean seeing a constant stream of medical professionals, which can be unnerving and distracting for labouring mums. Jeanne explains that additional support can be invaluable. “A doula acts as an advocate for the mother, encouraging her in her desires for her birth; unlike most medical professionals, they are with you throughout the process. They can provide comfort with pain relief techniques such as breathing, massage and optimal labour positions. They also encourage participation from the partner while offering reassurance,” she says.
And what about mothers who are deliberating between delivering in a public or private hospital? “In a private hospital, so long as the mother’s obstetrician is OK to have a doula in the birthing room, then we can stay throughout labour and birth. In public hospitals, only one accompanying person is allowed in the delivery room. The partner will go with the woman while I stay available by phone.” She adds that parents delivering in a public hospital often hire a doula to support labour at home, “for as long as the mother feels comfortable to do so, or until she is showing signs of active labour. I help them transfer to the hospital when they are ready.”
Support for any type of delivery
Does Jeanne’s support also extend to mothers who are delivering via planned or emergency caesarean section? “Of course! Parents having a C-section need support as much as parents aiming for a natural birth. The goal of a doula is to help parents have a positive and safe birth experience, whether they chose an unmedicated, medicated or caesarean delivery.”
So, when should expectant parents looking for more information and support get in touch with a doula? “Any time, really! Some parents need reassurance from very early in pregnancy,” Jeanne says.“Others feel the need to speak to a doula when they reach the end of the second trimester and start planning antenatal classes. Some will book doulas right at the last minute, although of course it can be difficult to ensure availability!”
And the support doesn’t stop once the baby arrives. “After birth, doulas can spend time helping parents to care for their newborn, helping with the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the new baby and family members.” Finally, Jeanne says that the doula’s purpose is “to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience.” And that sounds like support that all parents-to-be can benefit from.
Jeanne’s 3 top tips for expectant parents in Hong Kong
#1 Choose your doctor and hospital wisely according to your needs and birth wishes.
#2 Consider hiring a doula for antenatal classes, labour and birth support, and postpartum help, to ensure that your birth experience will be positive, loving and empowering.
#3 Even if you choose not to work with a doula during the birth, it’s worthwhile having their contact details for afterwards. We often need help and the postpartum experience is just as important as the birth itself.
This article first appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.
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