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Besides birthing support, Carina Mead, front left, and Miriam Farnam, also provide prenatal and postnatal fitness and yoga classes to help support new mothers. Chris Baxter/The Observer
Moms-to-be turn to doulas for helping hand
by Trish Yerges/Observer correspondent
Miriam Farnam and Carina Mead, have partnered in Union County to offer professional doula support to moms and their babies before, during and after childbirth.
“Doula is a Greek word, meaning ‘she who serves,’” explained Farnam, owner of a new doula service called SageBody Birth and Wellness.
Her business represents the first two professional doulas in Union County, serving mothers in hospitals or home birth settings.
“We’re not midwives, who are medically trained health care professionals, and we are not trained to deliver babies,” said Farnam who earned her master’s in public health from Portland State University. “A doula provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and after childbirth. We provide natural pain management and resources and help answer questions the mother may have.”
Mothers can contact Farnam or Mead any time during pregnancy or right before birth. Doulas focus on helping moms reduce any anxieties about birth they may have. They also help pregnant mothers figure out where they want to birth and who should be present during the birth.
Some have asked Farnam, why is a doula needed when the
“Nurses are there to keep mama (medically) safe, and their job is to be monitoring the baby and mama,” said Farnam, “but we’re there to keep mama happy and comfortable. These are two completely different jobs. Nurses literally don’t have the time to stay with mama and help her through the pain.”
On the other hand, Farnam said, the daddy doesn’t always know how to make mama feel better even though he is the one who loves her the most. Birth is an emotionally draining experience for most daddies, and they don’t always know what to do at every moment. Doulas do.
“We have lots of techniques to keep mama comfortable during labor,” said Farnam.
Cori Quillan of La Grande gave birth to her baby in March, using Mead as her doula. Mead provided physical comfort to Quillan, keeping her hydrated, wiping the sweat off her face from labor and cooling the back of her neck with a cold, damp wash cloth.
“It was nice to have a support team there to take care of me so that I didn’t have to worry about anything,” said Quillan, “and my partner could be there for me and not have to worry about anything either.”
The role of a doula in a hospital birthing room has proven to be an effective resource to mothers, babies and economical for hospitals. According to Farnam, the Providence Health System in Portland hires doulas to reduce medical intervention and increase infant mortality rates. Furthermore, doulas save hospitals money when birthing mothers
“When doulas are attending a birth, labors are statistically 40 percent shorter,” said Farnam, “and mamas were more likely to give birth vaginally without the use of vacuum extraction or forceps.”
According to a current Cochrane review titled “Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth,” mothers using doula services compared to those not using doula services were less likely to 1. need regional analgesia or any analgesia; 2. give birth with vacuum extraction or forceps; 3. give birth by Cesarean; 4. have a baby with a low five-minute Apgar score; and 5. report dissatisfaction with their birthing experience.
Reducing Cesarean births to only mothers who truly require that service is one of the ways that doulas significantly impact health care costs to patients.
“Just recently the Public Health Statistics of Oregon has shown that our hospital (Grande Ronde Hospital) actually has the highest rate of Cesareans in the state,” said Farnam. “We now have research that shows that the use of doulas in labor has reduced Cesareans by 50 percent. So we think it’s relevant in our community to use doulas because we do have such a high rate of Cesareans at our hospital.”
Even when Cesareans are necessary, doulas can still be of help to the mother before and after the surgical delivery.
Kitia Chambers of La Grande learned that her baby was breach, and she had to plan a Cesarean birth in March. Her doula, Miriam Farnam, gathered information that helped the Chambers couple to prepare for the Cesarean process.
“I didn’t have a doula with my first child, but I highly recommend it now,” said Chambers. “Miriam was so comforting and calming to me, and even after the birth, she made sure I was emotionally doing well. Her knowledge and ability was impressive.”
The role of doulas has caught the attention of the Oregon Health Authority. Last year, House Bill 3311 required the Oregon Health Authority to investigate how doulas and other health care workers could positively impact the birth outcomes and infant mortality rates of underprivileged and underserved women in Oregon.
In the Portland area where doulas are more commonly utilized, the hiring rate for doulas is between $800 to $1,500 per birth, but in Union County, Farnam charges between $300 and $500 per birth.
Besides birthing support, Farnam and Mead also provide prenatal and postnatal fitness and yoga classes to help support new mothers. Farnam also teaches a holistic fitness class called Nia. She is a certified Nia Green Belt with 15 years of practice in dance and yoga.
Farnam received her education in doula services at Mother Tree Birth in Portland, under instructor Jesse Henderson, and Mead graduated from BINI Birth in North Hollywood, Calif., under instructor Ana Paula Markel.
For more information on doula services or to attend a prenatal or postnatal fitness or yoga class, see www.sagebodydoula.com or SageBody Birth and Wellness on Facebook.