Doulas in Hawaii
They’re not doctors or midwifes, but doulas can make births easier.
When Rachel Wooten’s husband was deployed to Iraq halfway through her pregnancy, she worried he wouldn’t make it back to Honolulu in time for the birth of their first child. After talking with an Army wife friend, though, Wooten learned that she didn’t have to go through the childbirth process alone. She could hire a doula, or labor coach, to accompany her not only through the delivery, but also for prenatal classes and postnatal help.
Unlike midwives, doulas aren’t trained medical professionals, although they often receive certification from one of several organizations. But mothers often use both, since they serve different roles. Dr. Eesha Bhattacharyya, who delivers babies at Queen’s, Kapiolani and Castle hospitals, says that, of the approximately 300 births he attends a year, about 60 are attended by a doula. “They’re very helpful in educating patients and taking pressure off the husband so he can focus on emotional support,” Bhattacharyya says.
During a birth, a doula operates as the mother’s champion—a liaison between the patient and the doctor or midwife, who is focused on a healthy delivery and may not be as concerned with the mother’s experience. The doula’s priority is to ensure the mother has the most relaxing birth possible.
It’s not a frivolous concern. Studies have shown that mothers who use doulas have a nearly 50-percent reduction in cesarean deliveries, 25-percent shorter labors, a 60-percent drop in requests for epidurals and more positive opinions about labor compared to mothers who do not use doulas.
Wooten hired Tammy Uva as the doula for her 42-hour labor, although, happily, her husband was able to show up after all (thanks to emergency leave). Even though her husband was present, Wooten says she was still glad to have Uva in the room. “I love my husband, but there is nothing that really compares to a mothering kind of relationship, someone who has been there and has done it and can support you in a nurturing way while you are birthing,” she says.
Expecting mothers can learn more about Hawaii’s network of doulas at hawaiichildbirthprofessionals.com.