This web series started when a bunch of female filmmakers in their late 20s sat down for dinner with a doula and realized that we didn’t even know what we didn’t know about our own bodies! Women usually don’t reach out to a doula until they are already in the birth process. However, as women in our reproductive years in a land where female anatomy has been made taboo, we need a doula NOW!
Wait! What is a doula?
A doula is a person who supports a woman. Katy is a birth doula, which is a professional person and advocate that supports a mother, baby and birth team emotionally, educationally and physically during labor.
Women assisting women in birth is nothing new. Historically, woman always surrounded a woman in birth. Cleopatra is said to have had five ladies surrounding her. Paintings from the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th century always depicted birth with a woman, a midwife, and many women around the woman supporting her. Back in old England around Shakespeare’s day, when a women went into labor her female relatives and neighbors would gather to help. They would do the washing, cooking, and necessary tasks and help the laboring woman with lovely words, support and even massage. Sometimes they would stay for weeks until the mother was well enough to complete the household tasks and care for the baby. Births were social events because you also had all the ladies in the town talking about things. They were called her God-siblings because they had helped her in such a necessary time, or God-Sib for short. Shakespeare then called them the gossips because of all the talking they did during these labors.
So a birth doula is a woman supporting another women laboring today. There are also other kinds of doulas supporting women in other stages of the reproductive process, including postpartum doulas and abortion doulas.
So what? Why do I need to talk to a doula?
Katy here! So glad that you asked!
Because everyone was born! And yet most of us don’t come into contact with the birth process unless we decide to have a baby ourselves. But birth can teach us many things about ourselves and directly reflects the culture we live in. By bringing it back into our cultural consciousness we could become better and improve the way we give birth and support new families.
The U.S. ranks near the bottom of industrial countries (first world countries with access to clean water, medical facilities, etc.) – we rank near the bottom of that list in maternal and infant mortality. According to the World Health Organization we rank second to last in baby deaths and third to last in mama deaths. In 2002 infant mortality rose for the first time since 1958 in America. Other facts are that preterm births are on the rise, and cerebral palsy – thought to be caused by fetal distress – has remained stagnant with no sign of getting better.
We are really good at saving the lives of babies that are born super pre-mature. But woman in the U.S. are 70% more likely to die during childbirth in the U.S. than in Europe. Black women are four times more likely to die than white women.
We also know that American woman are among the most aggressively screened, monitored and tested throughout pregnancy. They also have little choice in where they can give birth and little support afterwards. Home births are illegal in over half of American states. Throughout the United States, we have one of the highest rates of undiagnosed postpartum depression, and we do little to no screening for this.
Comparatively, in countries with the best maternal and infant outcomes – Denmark, Sweden, Netherland – there are few things they do differently. They have universal lifelong healthcare in which mama and babies all have access too. Most woman give birth at home, with a midwife, and the government pays for postpartum care. And they lose far less babies and mamas. So, my first American feeling that comes from my headstrong ancestors is that if Scandanvia can do it – so can we. We can have healthy babies and mamas and are not less capable of supporting women and giving birth naturally, if we want.
Let’s talk about it and learn what’s stopping us!!!
Katy Collins, doula
We want to provide practical, educational, and emotional support to women concerning women’s health. Many women don’t know very basic information about our bodies. In the United States, we have one of the highest infant mortality rates among first world countries. In 2013, six out of 1,000 babies born in the U.S. died at birth or within their first year. This is three times the mortality rate for infants in Japan or Norway. We believe that more discussion of our medical practices and more education for women about our reproductive systems (including but not exclusive to childbirth) can begin to help us understand these numbers.