the Doula Decision

Adding Physical and Emotional Support to the Birthing Team

Bringing a baby into the world is truly one of life’s most memorable moments. Statistics show more and more Montana mamas are searching for doulas to share their experiences.

From the ancient Greek word doulos, meaning servant, a doula is often confused with a midwife. Unlike a midwife, a doula does not deliver a baby. In fact, doulas do not replace any medical personnel. Donna Sanders, a doula in north central Montana, explains, “I am trained in breathing, relaxation techniques, and massage. It’s my job to be a tool for a mother and father whose wish is to have a natural birth (although I have been a doula for women who have undergone c-sections as well) and to give continuous physical, emotional, and informational support before, during, and just after birth.”

“Continuous” is the key word. Historically, women in childbirth were cared for by other women. Perhaps those women were sisters, mothers, or another community member. These people remained throughout the entire birthing process to guide the mother. In today’s mobile society, women often don’t live near family. Hospitals have become the norm, but nurses get bogged down with charting and other patients making continuous support impossible. Sometimes rural hospitals are understaffed.

One scientific study conducted in 2013 involving 15,000 women in 16 countries concluded continuous support during childbirth greatly reduced the number of cesarean sections and use of pain medication. Total time in labor was also shortened. Numerous studies have duplicated these results potentially leading to a movement back toward the use of continuous support persons. Here enters the doula.

Sanders has assisted in the births of over 200 babies. Why is she so effective? Here’s what some of her clients have to say:

“She has a spirit about her that has complete confidence in a woman’s body. She doesn’t doubt it. Donna is completely supportive as a cheerleader. She’s great at keeping you confident.”

-Vanessa Conner

“I wanted a natural birth and someone who understood natural childbirth, birth centers, and hospitals. Donna offered to have classes at our house which was huge since we live between Shelby and Conrad. She taught us using our bathtub and our clothes. It was private and so my husband became super involved. After our baby was born, Donna came up and spent 2 or 3 hours coaching me through breastfeeding because breastfeeding is hard!”

-Jennie Becker

“Looking back on my first birth experience, I was very tense and I was focusing on the pain. There was a lot I would have done differently. I used Donna for the birth of our second child. She had so much more information. She talked to us about different labor positions and how to breathe through contractions instead of screaming through them. You focus on the baby…not the pain.”

-Chelsea Welker

Sanders stresses there is no right or wrong way to have a baby. “My only agenda is to help women feel supported. I love building these relationships and being a part of so many beginnings.”

Contact The Family Birth Center at 770-3022 for information on childbirth classes. To contact Donna about her doula services, please call 799-6554.

Heather Bode

Heather Bode lives in Helena with her husband and five children. She enjoys writing nonfiction for children and adults.