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Disclaimer: I am a student doula. I am also a student hypnobirthing practitioner. And I also planned to hypnobirth my second bub – with a doula providing plenty of additional support.

What brought me to this belief in doulas and hypnobirthing? My first birth was a very traumatic experience. I had no support other than my partner – and there was no-one there to support him at all! We did an independent childbirth education class, the only one running in our area. It didn’t really prepare us at all and dare I say it was probably quite similar to a “standard” hospital class: ie: not really big on practical tips about how to handle labour, how to support someone through labour or techniques to use for pain coping. We had one – to – one midwifery care throughout labour but the midwife spent more time looking at and playing with the ctg monitor and pushing drugs than providing any support. She made no suggestions about how I might achieve the birth I wanted or how my partner might support me. I didn’t even have a birth plan I could refer her to as this same midwife had told me that there was no point doing one. I spent my labour feeling alone, isolated, terrified and panicky.

So for my next birth, realising that I couldn’t rely on the hospital to provide the support I needed and realising that my partner really needed some extra support as well, I looked into options. After talking to several mums I decided that hiring a doula was an important first step. And then I decided that a hypnobirthing course would be a great way to ensure that I had covered all my bases in helping to ensure I had a positive experience second time around.

What is hypnobirthing? Hypnobirthing Australia is a childbirth education course which explores and promotes deep relaxation techniques for pain coping and relief. You go to the course at a venue with several other couples where you are taught the different techniques and tools to help you through pregnancy, labour and birth. It is really in depth with a great mix of theory and practise. Then you go home and practise the techniques you have learned. After most classes you will receive some additional support such as phone support and fear releases but generally speaking your course facilitator will not be with you at the birth. They won’t be there to remind you of the techniques you’ve learned. They won’t be there to remind you to ask questions. They won’t be rubbing your back or suggesting you hop in the shower. In the flurry of activity and the intimidation of a hospital you and your birthing partner will need to remember all that you learned.

What is a doula? A childbirth doula is an independent support person, hired by the parents, for the purpose of providing emotional support and physical comfort measures during labour. Most doulas also assist in areas such as: exploring birth goals and fears, birth planning, helping you to source information in regards to your choices and options as well as assisting with breastfeeding and the early post partum period. For me the most important aspect of a doula was that she is independent. She is not paid by the hospital and therefore her complete and total “loyalty” is to you – the birthing couple. I knew that she would support me and stand by all my decisions. Usually a doula will do a little general antenatal education with a couple, but you will generally only have anywhere from 3 – 10hours total with your doula before labour.

If I do the hypnobirthing course can’t my partner be my doula? No. A doula has many many hours of training in childbirth. Far more than the 12hours training provided in the Hypnobirthing Australia antenatal course. Good doulas have a solid understanding of what is normal, what is hospital policy and what natural things can be done to assist many minor complications (such as a stalled labour). A doula will generally know what the hospital is likely to recommend if a bump in the birthing road is encountered and this means that she will be able to have a conversation with you ahead of time. This ensures that when the OB or midwife announces the complication and their proposed treatment a) you don’t need to make a decision on the spot or find the courage to ask your care provider to leave so that you can talk it over with your birthing partner and b) the decision can be more considered and less emotional. Leading us to the second reason a birthing partner generally can’t be your doula. A doula is not only independent of the hospital, she is also independent of the family unit. This means that she is far less likely to be swayed by emotional argument and more able to support women to make considered decisions in the face of obstetric intervention.

Take home message? Having a doula can really enhance your hypnobirthing experience by ensuring that you have someone independent of your hospital and your family supporting you at the time you need it. And completing a Hypnobirthing Australia course can really enhance your doula experience by ensuring that you and your birthing partner have an understanding of normal birth and a really comprehensive collection of tools to use throughout your pregnancy and birthing journey. And both can really help your birthing partner to shine at the critical moment.