Nurture Naturally on the Nature Island, Dominica (Copyright ©2008)

Caribbean Homes and Lifestyle, March 2008

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After the birth of my baby boy, a few months ago, a good friend asked how my trip went. “It was great,” I said, without much hesitation.
“Great?” She was puzzled. I had to explain. “Well, I had a good experience.” I offered. I wanted to have my baby the most natural way in the most natural setting, with no medication and very little medical intervention. Having a doula present during pregnancy and at the birth, seemed the most sensible option, and one of the best decisions I made during those nine months.

Why a doula? Here, we have a woman who understands the needs of expecting women and their partners, and through her own experience offers a unique service to meet those needs. Trained in London under the guidance of Dr Michael Odent, renowned father of natural birthing, Sari Giraud-Sabetian practices as a certified doula on her native island Dominica.

While the term ‘doula’ may seem relatively new for most, the concept is as ancient as birth itself, as for centuries, women within the immediate and extended family have been supporting others before, during and after childbirth. Studies show that when a doula was present as part of the birth team women reported having a more positive birthing experience, as they had shorter labors, were less likely to have pain relief medications administered, and their chances of a cesarean birth was lowered by fifty percent. Moreover, partners provided support with confidence, and women were less likely to suffer from postpartum depression, and enjoy a positive breastfeeding relationship with baby.

Sari therefore continues this support and guidance as a trained doula knowledgeable in the medical aspect of ante partum, labor and postpartum care. Sari conducts Natural Childbirth Workshops where she encourages women to trust their bodies more, and use their instincts in preparation for a safe and empowering birth experience. Sari explains how her class works. “The workshop is a tailor-made course covering every aspect of pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal care. Each course is fashioned to suit individual needs. The idea is to help women make informed decisions on their own and to realize that pregnancy is not a disease.”

Now that birthing has moved from home to hospital, a vital element of support has been lost. In many cultures, societal pressure on the expecting mother coupled with the encroachment of the medical model in the birth process, have made the doula’s role more of a necessity than a luxury. Still, Sari would love to see more women educated on the holistic aspect of natural birthing. “There is a great need to educate the general public on the positive aspects of giving birth naturally. To achieve this, we need to go back to understanding the physiology of giving birth. During labor, I encourage women to use their bodies to minimize discomfort and to speed up the process.”

Through her established business, ‘Nurture Naturally’ Sari combines her doula service with aromatherapy massage. She uses organic essential oils for therapeutic massage during pregnancy, and to help reduce stress and anxiety during labor. In addition, Sari administers soothing and relaxing infant / baby massage, which is known to promote restful sleep, and improve baby’s circulation, digestion and growth.

Giving birth is one of the most natural processes and nature has provided women with the natural instincts to give birth safely without the need for medical intervention. Dominica, a haven for nature lovers, is the perfect place for Sari to offer her professional services, as the island lends itself well to promoting healthy lifestyles, due to its vegetation, clean air and abundance of traditional medicinal herbs.

“Most of the essential oils I use are available on the island in herbal form, for example, ginger and peppermint used to treat morning sickness and headaches [respectively], raspberry leaf helps tone the uterus especially in the last trimester, orange and bergamot both increase appetite and chamomile which is used for gentle relaxation.”

Sari has a range of products available for pregnant women, including perineum massage oil. “Many women do not know how important it is to massage the perineum in the last few weeks before the birth. Continuous massage with perineum oil helps lessen the chance of tearing during delivery, and the risk of having an episiotomy.” While it may appear that doulas only assist in natural un-medicated births, you can be assured that having a doula present is beneficial regardless of the type of birth you plan to have at home or hospital. Sari realizes that every birth is unique and therefore every woman’s need is unique. As a doula, Sari will help women cope with the administration of medications and its possible side-effects, as well as encourage a mother who faces a cesarean.

Since her recent return to the Nature Island, Sari is gradually changing the lives of women who want a memorable, active birthing experience. These women, especially those with little or no support system can relax knowing they are looked after in the best way possible, because they truly are ‘nurtured naturally’.

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