I am so pleased to introduce Leah from Mother’s Circle today, and to have her tell you about her work on a birth survey for young women (find the survey here). Leah is a doula and a childbirth educator, a mother, and an advocate for women in birth, and she writes about all this at Mother’s Circle. ~Amy
I have always trusted my body and trusted the process of birth even before I knew babies and mamas would be my profession. I’ve been in the birth world as a professional for ten years, as a Mom for over thirteen and it still saddens me to witness how much fear is tied up with birth. As a doula* and childbirth educator, I work with families starting late in the second trimester, or later, more than midway through their pregnancy. I have found that the short time we work together is simply not long enough to reverse decades of fear a woman may carry. She may not even consciously realize her trepidation and angst, or its depth.
My motivation to conduct the Young Women’s Birth Survey sprouted at a conference with collegiate women in 2010. A group of young women asked what I do and after explaining what a doula is, I was shocked to hear the reactions of these young, healthy women who wanted to be mothers one day. They shared how afraid they were of pregnancy and birth. One young woman believed her body couldn’t hold a baby and another announced that she only wanted a C-section.
These were educated young women, yet all were petrified of birth. How could I get young women’s attention on the subject? How could I offer them evidence-based information before they even know they need it? How could I empower young women to trust their bodies and the process of birth?
Last year, I devised a survey to ask young women, ages 18-26, about what they know about birth, where they’ve learned it and what means of communication and education young women would be open to for receiving information on birth.
Presenting tragic and dramatic labor situations, the media has taught our young people, boys, girls, women and men, that birth is scary, dangerous and a disaster waiting to happen. This deeply seeded, pervasive fear is out of proportion to reality. This fearfulness absolutely influences a woman’s prenatal choices, it unquestionably affects her in labor and as she becomes a mother. Can we find a far-reaching way to communicate the joys, triumphs and strength of birthing women so moms may approach birth from a place of security?
I hear discouraging words that women in this age group aren’t interested in learning more. Perhaps that is true for some, but I believe if we can find an effective means to deliver and share positive, healthy, beautiful images and messages about birth, we can begin to unravel this culture of fear. We can empower young women to own their births and envision a pleasurable pregnancy and birth. This survey is a baby step toward that vision of confident, young women ready to make informed decisions.
Please join me in sharing information about Leah’s survey, and encouraging friends and colleagues in this age group to participate. As soon as Leah has some data from the survey, we’ll hear more about what she’s learned!
*A birth doula is a woman who supports a Mom and Dad/partner through labor and birth. Prenatally, she provides resources, information and support and during birth gives encouragement and emotional and physical comfort. She does not perform any clinical or diagnostic tasks and serves the family as part of their birthing team. Postpartum doulas support families in the early weeks home with a new baby providing lactation guidance, infant soothing skills, emotional support and practical household organizational assistance.