Monday, June 12, 2006
Pregnant women dance way to smooth delivery
Sarah MacDonald, The StarPhoenixPublished: Monday, June 12, 2006
Six women in varying stages of pregnancy move across a dance floor, their bodies swaying and arms floating in time with the music.
Their movements, which include elements of belly dance, African dance and yoga, are designed to strengthen their bodies for delivery of their babies. The exercise also helps position the babies for birth and increases the flow of oxygen to the womb.
Once a week, these women dance together and prepare for their deliveries. They are led by two Saskatoon doulas, Kari Hollingsworth and Lisa Wass.
"We teach an eclectic mix of exercises to prepare women physically for birth," Wass said.
The classes have themes such as trust and fear, Hollingsworth said.
"We also work on emotional things," she added.
As well as teaching prenatal dance, the doulas discuss specific elements of birth and teach the women how to ease labour with the help of massage, exercises, and mental focus.
The word "doula" is Greek and means "women helping women." Now it's used to refer to women who help women or couples with birth, primarily with physical and emotional support, Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth and Wass each assist with two births a month, and the demand for their services is rising.
"We are there representing (the women's) interests. The health-care system is there to provide care but they have to be careful of their own policies and litigation possibilities," Wass said.
They massage the women, keep them comfortable, calm them down or encourage them, let them scream or provide them with silence.
Hollingsworth was motivated to become a doula because her own birthing experiences weren't all she'd hoped they would be.
"It's one of the most intimidating, vulnerable things you can ever do. People will either come out of childbirth feeling empowered and strong and good about themselves, or they'll come out feeling . . . quite taken advantage of, saying 'I didn't know that's what it was going to be like' and afraid to have another baby," Hollingsworth said. "We're there to hold hands with you."
Doulas provide one-on-one service for women. Hollingsworth and Wass are by the women's sides for the entire labour, sometimes for as long as 40 hours. They said it's important for women to own their births and feel good about them from the first stages of pregnancy to after the delivery. They want to ensure that each birth is a positive experience.
Hollingsworth and Wass also help the women's support people.
For men, the thought of having a doula may be intimidating, but doulas don't replace the role of the fathers during birth. Rather, they provide them with support, too, and help them assist their partners.
"The first thing we tell the dads is . . . we're going to teach you how to coach a sport you've never seen and you will never play. And then they laugh and the wall comes down," Wass explained.
Carmen Hesje searched for a doula and found Hollingsworth as well as the dance class.
"I'm really focused on having a good positive birth experience with less pressure on my husband," said Hesje, her hand resting on her swollen belly.
"It's kind of a different mindset. You're the mom and you're in control."
At the end of the class, a former student, Kathy Donnelly, came in with her new twin girls. Wass was Donnelly's doula.
"I highly recommend it. You have someone that is solely there for you, focused only on you. You've got somebody who knows what birth is all about," Donnelly said.
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006
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