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Have You Met the New Doulas? They’re Helping City Moms Give Birth

Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.

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Women
5 min read
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In our country, birth is a phenomenon marked by the strangest of ironies – for the most intimate happening of your life, you are surrounded by a complete set of strangers and asked to do your best in pushing a human out.

While the western world has taken leaps and bounds in helping women give birth naturally, in India – the land of ‘dai mas’ or midwives – these amazing birthing assistants have remained in the periphery in modern lifestyle.

However, doulas are slowly finding ground in urban India, leading to more women having natural births – with husbands joining in the experience.

Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.
Celestina Cavinder takes ‘bookings’ almost 6 months in advance. (Photo Courtesy: Celestina Cavinder)

Celestina Cavinder, a Bangalore-based doula and mother of six, explains why there has been a recent rise in the demand for her services.

There are specific birthing networks that offer first-class professional counsel in all aspects of childbirth in India today. Add to that, the ever-increasing number of expats and NRIs – people who are far more aware of the services that a doula can offer. There is also a social network of people who are actively researching and looking for viable options for having safe natural births.
Celestina Cavinder, Bangalore-based doula
Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.
“People today are far more aware of the services that a doula can offer,” says Celestina Cavinder. (Photo Courtesy: Celestina Cavinder)

She now takes ‘bookings’ almost 6 months in advance.

More importantly, after the initial reluctance from some hospitals/doctors/nurses to embrace the assistance of professional doulas, there has been a shift towards acceptance – doctors have understood that doulas can perfectly assist and encourage mothers in no-risk pregnancies.

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To Make the Caregiving Mainstream

India could benefit from following one of the successful models practised in western countries.

Lina Duncan, a midwife since 1999, has been practising in Mumbai for 8 years.

Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.
“India is a very large and diverse country with different needs in every state,” says Lina. (Photo Courtesy: Lina Duncan)
“I am from the UK where the National Health Services provides a free medical service supported by the government. India is a very large and diverse country with different needs in every state. I feel a ‘Midwife Model Of Care’ would benefit the whole nation – in that one, doctors can assign midwives to oversee pregnancies that have no medical complications – depending, of course, on the training each midwife has.

Another doula and a civil engineer by profession, Delhi-based Divya Deswal has combined the best of both worlds.

Her knowledge of midwifery in India – along with her western training on childbirth – has made her a leading caregiver.

Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.
Another doula and a civil engineer by profession, Delhi-based Divya Deswal has combined the best of both worlds. (Photo Courtesy: Divya Deswal)
Between intuition and intellect I already ‘knew’ a lot about birth. Today, I am a certified childbirth educator, a birth doula, a HypnoBirthing childbirth educator-fertility practitioner and have recently completed my ‘Biodynamic Craniosacral’ therapy training that deals with the central nervous system.
Divya Deswal, Delhi-based doula and civil engineer

Divya has helped women who have had painful first time deliveries, crisis of belief in themselves and failure at breastfeeding to have perfect, calm natural births the second time round.

Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.
Divya has helped women who have had painful first time deliveries, crisis of belief in themselves and failure at breastfeeding to have perfect, calm natural births the second time round. (Photo Courtesy: Divya Deswal) 

A Guardian, a Friend, a Nurturing Presence

Doulas can come into the picture at any point during the pregnancy, but preferably earlier than later.

I engaged Celestina at around 34 weeks. Extremely knowledgeable and professional, she was a tremendous help to my husband and me before, during and after birth. She kept my desire to deliver naturally without medication in mind and helped stick to the birth plan, through exercises, HypnoBirthing techniques and a nurturing presence.
Vaishali, first-time mother
Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.
(Photo Courtesy: Celestina Cavinder)

“Available at the odd hour we delivered our baby in, my husband – who was also involved in the birth – cannot imagine how this would have played out without a doula. We suggest every woman have one to make this scary experience a positively life changing one,” enthuses Vaishali.

Celestina expounds on what a doula does:

  • Pre-natal classes to help prepare the mother-to-be physically by learning certain breathing and muscle exercises which ease the delivery.
  • Helping mentally by giving detailed explanations of what the mother can expect so that nothing comes as a ‘surprise’.
  • Finally, during the highly emotional delivery and postpartum period, she is a source of comfort and reassurance.
Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.
A doula provides pre-natal classes to help prepare the mother-to-be physically. (Photo Courtesy: Lina Duncan)

With the rise in nuclear families and more independence given to couples in making life choices, many mothers-to-be go into pregnancy with little or no knowledge.

The lack of understanding and preparedness leads to stressful and overly-complicated pregnancies that could have been much enjoyable had the mother received physical, emotional and mental advice beforehand. So a doula has a very positive role to play in the current Indian context.

Meet a new breed of modern-day doulas who are assisting and encouraging women through the stages of childbirth.
Lina believes that children are growing up in a country where Cesarean rates are sky rocketing. (Photo Courtesy: Lina Duncan)
Children are growing up in a country where Cesarean rates are sky rocketing. It’s time to share positive, powerful stories with them, so that they believe in their own capability to birth the next generation. And that is what doulas propagate.
Lina Duncan, Mumbai-based midwife
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(Runa Mukherjee Parikh has written on women, culture, social issues, education and animals, with The Times of India, India Today and IBN Live. When not hounding for stories, she can be found petting dogs, watching sitcoms or travelling. A big believer in ‘animals come before humans’, she is currently struggling to make sense of her Bengali-Gujarati lifestyle in Ahmedabad.)

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