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'Why I worked with my doula before the birth of my baby to make a post-partum plan.'

I was fortunate to have the same doula for the birth of both my babies ten years apart. When she came to visit me a few days after the births, it was like having an angel walk through the door.

I felt such a bond with her and she wrapped me in her arms like a mum would, before feeding me a wonderful nourishing meal and making me a cup of tea. I wish I could have had her come regularly through those early weeks.

According to doula, Gabrielle Nancarrow, there is a growing awareness of the value of post-partum doulas in Australia.

Gabrielle runs a space, called Gather in Melbourne, which allows women to connect and nurture themselves through workshops, circles, story-telling and other services. It also has a doula collective, including post-partum doulas.

“Women are waking up to the post-partum period and that it is a time to rest. Women are understanding more about the first 40 days after birth and how important it is for rest and bonding,” she explained.

Gabrielle said there is too much pressure on women to feel as if they must be strong and say, ‘yep I have this, I am out and about after just getting out of hospital and I am amazing’.

“You have to heal from birth. Birth is huge emotionally and physically. It is a massive shift,” she said. “A post-partum doula is there to mother the mother. To feed her, nourish her and talk to her about the birth so she can just look after the baby.”

“It is a really important time and you have to become a mother at your own pace. You don’t need to be superhuman and bounce right back.”

Melbourne mum of two, Kate Harrison, 31, felt like she had been thrown into the deep end and overwhelmed with the recovery. Even though she had a lot of family support she found herself suffering from post-natal depression.

"You have to heal from birth. Birth is huge emotionally and physically. It is a massive shift." (Image: Amy Pearson)

“I was focused on the pregnancy and birth and didn’t think about the post-partum. I put all my energy into the birth,” Kate said.

After hearing about post-partum doulas and becoming pregnant again, Kate immediately decided she needed one with her second baby.

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“The second time around was a thousand times better with my recovery and well-being. After the six weeks of having her, I felt I didn’t need any more sessions. I just felt good, but first time around it took me a lot longer to adjust and feel comfortable in my new role,” she recalled.

Kate worked with her doula before the birth to put together a post-partum plan. This included looking at the role of oxytocin and finding ways to reduce stress, which hampers the hormone of love and bonding.

“One of the things was prioritising self-care by just doing two things a day for myself. This included just being able to have a shower by myself or having a cup of tea and reading a book,” she said.

Kate’s plan also looked at who was organising meals and who was helping with daily routines, such as school pick-ups and this was attached to the fridge.

"Husbands don’t understand or know how to fix everything. It (having a doula) takes a lot of the pressure off the relationship." (Image: Getty)

Kate’s post-partum doula specialised in pelvic floor recovery, so she would come around once a week, cook her a meal, give her a massage and help with pelvic floor exercises as well as help with feeding and settling the baby.

“The first time it felt like a lot of it fell on my husband and there was a pressure on him to fix everything. But husbands don’t understand or know how to fix everything. It (having a doula) takes a lot of the pressure off the relationship,” Kate said.

She has now trained as a post-partum doula and said everyone specialises in something different. Her focus draws on her training as a naturopath.

“It is customised care, rather than a blanket approach, which you might get with a midwife,” she said.

Gabrielle said there was a lot of evidence showing that setting yourself up in the post-natal period had long term benefits.

Have you used a post-partum doula? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments section below.

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