GAMBO, NL – Doctors and nurses have well-established roles in delivering
babies, and the provincial government has announced midwives will soon be part of that system.
Until then, pregnant woman in Central Newfoundland have an additional option for support.
Samantha Whitman is currently completing her training to become a certified doula. Doulas, or birth coaches, work in private businesses to provide emotional, physical and educational support to pregnant women, and supplement services provided by medical professionals.
Whitman, who opened a practice in Gambo, is drawing on her experience as a paramedic and her long-time fascination with the birthing process to support pregnant families from Grand Falls-Windsor to Clarenville and Bonavista.
Her business, Nesting Owl, has had one client so far. Whitman travelled to the Bonavista area to visit the client at home, and to the Dr. G. B. Cross Memorial Hospital in Clarenville for the birth of the baby.
“Doulas haven’t been part of the culture,” said Whitman. “Even in St. John’s, it’s a really low percentage of people using doulas. It’s a challenge to change the perception.”
According to a 2017 study, working with a doula increases the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal birth, decreases the use of the Pitocin drip and medications for pain relief, and decreases the risks of caesarean section, newborn admission to special care nursery, and dissatisfaction with the birth experience.
“Sam was incredible and an asset to my birth and the entire experience,” said Beth Clarke, Whitman’s first client.
“I'm so happy to say that my labour was short and unmedicated.”
While their experience at the hospital went smoothly, working with a doula is not something most health care professionals are used to.
Whitman is looking forward to the re-introduction of midwives in Newfoundland and Labrador. In other provinces, midwives take on some of a doctor’s duties in low-risk pregnancies. While a doula is not medically trained, a midwife is.
“I’m really looking forward to working with midwives right off the get-go” says Whitman. “I think I will be able to build relationships with doctors and nurses over time, but it will be easier to build relationships with midwives.”
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