“The way you approach birth is intimately connected to the way you approach life.”
Dr. William Sears
The Washington County Mental Health Services (WCMHS) Doula Project is made up of three main components- childbirth education, labor support and postpartum support. All of these components are approached with the mindfulness that women who suffer from mental health issues, cognitive limitations, are trauma survivors and/or struggle with addiction issues, have a unique set of prenatal, childbirth and postpartum needs. This project is available to any woman already receiving services or is eligible to receive services within WCMHS, or whose child is receiving services.
What began as one doula providing supports, to mothers already enrolled in other WCMHS programs, has grown into its own program with five staff doulas, pre- and post-natal yoga, two active peer groups, thirteen enrolled participants and seven babies born, since July 2014!
The mission of childbirth education is to educate and empower families about proper prenatal care, birth, and parenting so that they are better prepared and confident in their abilities. Classes are focused on preparation for parenthood with a heavy emphasis on proper infant care, managing new-parent stressors, preparing other siblings, encouraging healthy bonding and attachment, and connecting with positive mentors and the community-at-large. We have had group trips to tour Central Vermont Medical Center, meet with local lactation consultants and other non-profits such as Good Beginnings of Central Vermont and the Central Vermont Babywears.
Labor Support- What is a doula?
A labor doula is defined as “a physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth” (DONA International). Doulas are very knowledgeable about labor and birth and work with the woman on coping techniques and helping her to understand procedures. Each program participant is assigned a program doula, whom they meet with ongoing during the prenatal period. The goal is for the doula, and the participant (and partner, if applicable) to have formed a solid, trusting relationship. The doula is “on call” for two weeks prior to the woman’s due date until she has her baby, and attends the birth to support her, for the entire duration of the birth. The doula also provides unlimited phone and email access during that time to support the woman during what is often a very emotional, highly anxious and uncomfortable time.
Benefits of a Doula
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
Research shows parents who receive support often:
Having a new baby is often a very isolating time in families’ lives, and the postpartum component of this program is focused on connecting people in the community in healthy ways, building on positive attachments and bonding, addressing all the “new parent” questions, and family’s emotional and physical care following birth. The postpartum component includes:
A primary goal of The Doula Project is to support mothers and families to have a birth experience that lays the groundwork for bonding and attachment to their newborns. Experts agree that well attached parents are often better at reading their babies cues, meeting their needs, and are more invested in their development. Well attached babies are more likely to meet development milestones, have less separation anxiety and more confidence, and learn more easily (Sears Dr. W, Bonding: What it Means, The Attachment Parenting Book, 2001).
For more information, or to make a referral to The Doula Project, please contact Maria Noyes at (802) 522-8637.
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