Yet another research study has come out showing that having a doula improves women’s birth experiences and reduces their risk of complications during birth. This is the first study, though, to show that health insurance companies are likely to save money overall by covering doula care. The original study was published by Birth, and you can access it here.
NPR has an excellent write-up on the study and some of its implications here.
We had doula support for each of my births, and I will always strongly recommend a birth doula (and a postpartum doula, if at all possible), for all parents, especially first-timers. Our daughter’s birth doula barely made her birth because it happened so quickly, but she was still a hugely important presence in the pre-birth planning, and talking with her about some of my anxieties and getting her feedback made my daughter’s birth easier both mentally and physically. I’m confident that the doula who supported us during my son’s birth was instrumental in helping us avoid an unnecessary Cesarean, and she provided empathetic and careful counseling when I had trouble breastfeeding him after we were discharged from the hospital.
Doulas are worth it, insurance should cover their services, end of story.
I’ve talked before about how common miscarriage really is compared to how often it’s talked about in American society. Something like 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and with today’s early pregnancy tests, more people who would have just thought they were having a late period are dealing with the emotional fallout of miscarriage, too. Since we as a society don’t talk openly about miscarriage and pregnancy loss, many people feel confused about how to handle their (sometimes complex) feelings around a lost pregnancy.
Last month, I saw this article over at NPR about a traditional Japanese Buddhist ceremony specifically for families dealing with a pregnancy loss. The fact that rituals around this life event exist in other countries, but not here in the U.S., just points more directly to the idea that we need to acknowledge this issue more openly. The article addresses the fact that many Americans are adopting this Buddhist ceremony to help them process their losses, and I am relieved that some people have found this option as a resource toward healing.
What I would really love, though, would be to live in a United States so open about these difficult issues that we had developed uniquely American rituals and processes for supporting grieving families through miscarriages and stillbirths. The first step toward that future is talking about this stuff!
So many of us don’t think very much about how pregnancy and birth work until we’re going through it ourselves. And pregnancy is so weird! You can describe it as a beautiful, miraculous process all you want, and it is, but it’s also a process full of discomfort. From the physical pain of your internal organs getting shoved around to the psychological discomfort of suddenly living in a body that looks different every day, pregnancy is bizarre and challenging work.
Huffington post has done a profile on a comic by cartoonist Rebecca Roher, created when one of her close friends was pregnant and birthed her first child. The cartoon highlights a lot of the strangeness of being pregnant, most of which you don’t usually encounter in popular culture. This is stuff I wish more people knew about. If you’re curious about what pregnant people are going through or the real experience of being pregnant, birthing, and suddenly being a parent (at least for some of us), I highly recommend you read it!
The entire cartoon is at GUTS here: Mom Body by Rebecca Roher
Mother’s Day is a day of mixed feelings for so many of us. Some of us are proud to be mothers to amazing kids. Some think of their own mothers, and miss those that they’ve lost. Some grieve for the babies they want and can’t conceive. And so many women spend Mother’s Day thinking of the babies they’ve lost through miscarriage and stillbirth.
Hobson writes about how often feelings of shame and guilt accompany the loss of a pregnancy, even though miscarriage is almost never preventable. She also points out that 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage – that’s nearly 1 in 5. A lot of women who are trying to conceive are going to experience a miscarriage at some point in their lives, and this isn’t something most families talk about, which contributes to this culture of shame around it. Women and families going through this often feel so alone in the experience, when it’s very likely that some of their friends, neighbors, and other family members have been through the same thing.
There are thousands of ways we could work to better honor the mothers in our lives (better sex-ed, better education in general, more protection and coverage for the right to choose abortion, more funding for women’s shelters, and teaching men not to rape are all things that come to mind), but improving awareness of the realities of pregnancy loss and how many women are affected by it would be a great start. Women should feel safe talking about miscarriage if they want to, and being able to grieve (or not grieve) openly, without fear of being blamed by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. There is strength in community, and a community as large as this one should not feel the need to remain silent.