"Trust your instincts about everything and never worry about inconveniencing anyone. You will only be pregnant with this baby one time, you will only give birth to this baby one time - don't spend even a second worrying about the convenience or inconvenience of others. What matters most is you and your baby. Find a midwife or doctor whom you trust and feel comfortable with. You deserve to be and have the right to be a respected participant in your own and your baby's healthcare."
Carolyn is a birth doula serving pregnant women in hospitals, birth centers and homes in and around Munich. She helps women have a wonderful birth experience through emotional and physical support and tries to make labor and birth as comfortable and stress-free as it can possibly be. There are many health benefits to hiring a doula. In research studies doulas have been proven to decrease medical interventions and improve outcomes for birthing women.
Could you define for our readers the definition of a doula and the services a doula offers women?
As an English-speaking doula in Munich, I help expectant mothers, and their families, navigate the uncertainties of pregnancy and the unpredictability of childbirth in a foreign system. Throughout pregnancy, birth and the early days parenting a newborn, I provide emotional, physical, mental and informational support. Before birth, I meet with mums several times to talk about what to expect here in Germany, ways to cope with the intense sensations of birth, how to maintain a sense of relaxation and peace, how to approach the unexpected, and how to communicate clearly, effectively and amicably with health care providers, who may have a different set of cultural expectations with regard to the dynamics of the medical provider-patient relationship. This is exceptionally important because the better understood a mum feels by her midwife and/or doctor, the more likely she is to feel confident in the process of birth itself and the choices she makes as a mother giving birth. In order to support a mum in feeling as prepared as possible, I help her to recognize and access her already existing skills, strengths and abilities that she may not have considered would be applicable in the context of birth. This helps her to connect more confidently with her instinctual ability to make the decisions necessary to bring her baby in to this world safely, calmly, and above all, lovingly. In my role as a doula, I do not perform any clinical tasks, interpret test results or make any evaluations about a mum's health, her baby’s health or her birthing. Instead, my goal is to help facilitate opportunities for a mum (and her partner) to advocate for herself, voicing any wishes, needs and concerns she may have (“It looks like the midwife/nurse is preparing X. What questions do you have for her? Do you feel you need a minute to talk about it?”). After a mum has given birth to her baby, I stay until she has had a chance to cuddle and bond with her baby, including the first feeding and getting settled into her new room (if at hospital). I then meet mum several times to help her comfortably ease into life with a newborn. We talk about normal baby behaviour, changes in her body and her recollections of and feelings about the birth of her child. If she is in need of additional support, I help connect her with local experts (baby bonding specialists, midwives, doctors, osteopaths, lactation consultants like IBCLCs and more).
Why do women choose to work with a doula?
Here in Munich, mothers have been interested in working with a doula for several reasons. The first reason is the desire for support in communicating with the birth team both culturally and linguistically as many of the mums I have had the honour and pleasure of getting to know are expats. Quite a few mums have given birth before and like the idea of having calm, continuous support throughout giving birth. Unfortunately, due to the situation that German midwives are currently facing, and the mini "baby boom" in Munich, many of the dedicated doctors and midwives find themselves working ever longer and harder hours. While they still provide families in the Munich area with stellar care, their focus remains on the clinical and administrative aspects of care
How do people go about finding a doula, and how do they know if they are fully qualified?
There are many avenues to go about finding a certified doula. Currently, there are a large number of doula training organisations. If mothers would like to have a doula from a certain doula training organisation, she can use the individual site's search function to locate a doula who has certified with that organisation. There are also a number of doulas who, while experienced, have chosen not to certify with any one organisation. I recommend meeting with a doula to get to know more about her, her experience, the philosophy of her certifying organisation and how she has supported families in the past. This can be helpful in getting an idea as to whether working with that particular doula would be a fit. Just like mums may connect well with one obstetrician or midwife over another, the same is true of doulas. As doulas, we all want mothers to have the opportunity to work with a doula, with whom she connects with best.
Are there any associations for doulas in Germany?
Yes, there are two main certifying organisations: Gesellschaft für Geburtsvorbereitung (GfG) - Familienbildung und Frauengesundheit - Bundesverband, e.V. (List of GfG Doulas in Germany: http://www.gfg-bv.de/pdf/KL_Liste_Doulas_151215.pdf) and Doulas in Deutschland, e.V. (Find a doula: http://www.doulas-in-deutschland.de/index.php/doula-finden); You will also be able to find doulas who have certified with other international organisations (DONA, CBI, etc.).
When you first got involved in childbirth support, what did you aspire to provide for women and has this changed?
When I first considered becoming a doula, my main motivation stemmed from the desire to support mothers in voicing their needs, preferences and wishes whether giving birth at home, a birthing centre or hospital. Truth be told, my motivation remains the same. Mums have an incredible sense of self and knowledge of their bodies and their babies. A mum has intuitive knowledge about what is normal for her baby and her baby. No one else in this world loves her baby as much as she does and every member of her birth team works hard to make sure she and her baby are healthy. Sometimes ideas can diverge. I see my role as a support for mums and their partners as they ask questions to find out more about a recommended plan of care and reach an informed decision. No one can ever predict what will or won't happen when a baby is born, but we can work together to help mums feel safe, comfortable, respected and loved.
What advice would you give to women from the International Community who are preparing to have a baby in Germany?
Trust your instincts about everything and never worry about inconveniencing anyone. You will only be pregnant with this baby one time, you will only give birth to this baby one time - don't spend even a second worrying about the convenience or inconvenience of others. What matters most is you and your baby. Find a midwife or doctor whom you trust and feel comfortable with. You deserve to be and have the right to be a respected participant in your own and your baby's healthcare.
How do you feel about using pain medication during labour?
I fully trust, respect and support a mother's decision to choose whichever means of pain relief she has determined is necessary in order to give birth to her baby safely.
What labour coping techniques do you like to use?
A reassuring, calm presence and my hands (massage, counter pressure, etc.)
What is your opinion of the pre- and post-birth services for women in Germany?
In my experience, the services offered in the Munich area are genuinely helpful. While a large majority are in German, there is a fair handful in English ranging from, infant first aid classes, antenatal yoga, baby massage, breastfeeding education classes, breastfeeding support groups, childbirth education classes, baby bonding, baby and mummy meet-ups, play groups, regular seminars on raising multilingual children, and so much more.
Do you feel there is adequate support for mothers in Germany in terms of caring for the baby and breastfeeding?
Yes and no. My impression is that it depends heavily on the region in which you live. Munich, in particular, has an extensive network of lactation support. However, it does not seem to be easily accessible for new parents. Many families rely on their pediatricians, OBGYNs and midwives for breastfeeding advice so it can also depend on how up-to-date these healthcare professionals are on the latest breastfeeding recommendations. Having a wider community of support by joining mum and baby groups, breastfeeding support groups and contacting an IBCLC can help ease some of the tenstion, uncertainties and challenges that may arise while learning how to breastfeed a baby.
For more information please visit www.bb-doula.com or email Carolyn on firstname.lastname@example.org