The Birth Coach Method is a Paradigm Shift in the Field of Birth Support, and Can Lead to Increase in Natural Birth Rates
Coaching is a young profession in comparison to the doula practice, which has its origins in ancient days. Coaching originated in sports, and has gained popularity and recognition in many subdivisions such as Career Coaching, Relationship Coaching, or ADHD Coaching. At the same time, much fewer know what is a doula, and many others doubt doulas’ contribution to healthy births. If doulas were to practice as Birth Coaches with coaching tools and leadership skills, it would leverage their practice.
Neri has been mentoring Birth Doulas at a local program in the Bay Area for the last six years. "When I first became a doula in 1998, medical studies showed significant benefits of hiring a doula. Studies confirmed that hiring a doula decreases the need for pain medications, medical interventions, and cesareans. Meanwhile, cesarean rates and Epidural rates continue to rise worldwide. The increase in reliance on medical intervention has been discouraging to many of my students; as they begin to work as doulas they discover that many mothers trust medical procedures and technology more than they trust their bodies."
By offering the Birth Coach Method training program Neri wants to steer mothers towards more natural, healthier births. "If doulas were to practice as birth coaches that utilize coaching skills, we would have witnessed an increase in natural birth rates. I see a problem with the current short and insufficient weekend training authorized to become a doula in the US; Labor and Delivery staff, like OB-GYN’s and nurses, react with a skeptical sigh or with explicit rejection toward doulas because their position radiates a strong presence with very little education or body of knowledge. I have been a witness, and sometimes a victim, of rejection by the medical staff. I believe that if doulas are trained with a more elaborate education system, the doula profession will earn a large amount of respect. I also recognize the lack of clarity in the role of a doula, and I have observed the frustration of the doula community in regards to birthing moms who are being treated like potential emergencies instead of nature’s miracles. I trust that by implementing the coaching tools and techniques into the doula practice, as well as by borrowing the well-established role definition of coaches, we can make the paradigm shift that is needed."
Neri became a Life coach after ten years of practicing as a birth doula and childbirth educator. During these years she supported hundreds of couples as a doula, and led hundreds of childbirth education classes. Neri founded a birth resource center and directed another one. "After becoming a Life Coach I could reflect on my work in the field of birth from the coaching perspective, and I saw two main areas of my practice that needed to be modified if I really wanted to facilitate healthy and active births:
1. I had to find a way to encourage my birth clients to practice their labor support tools more than just a couple of times in childbirth education class. I wanted clients to understand that their habitual reaction to pain is in their way to a good healthy birth. Our habit is to respond to pain with rejection and contraction, tightening the muscles. Labor support tools were designed to help birthing moms cope with labor sensations and pain, and to invite progress at their birth. But they need to own them, to make a new habit out of them, so that in labor they will respond with them to labor contractions and strains. This apparent need for changing the habitual response to pain motivated me to publish the ‘Practicing for an Active Birth’ DVD, which allows couples to practice labor support tools at the comfort of their home, until they own them.
2. In my doula practice I have established individual coaching sessions which were designed to bring my birth clients closer to their goal; the sessions addressed concerns and fears, invited clarity regarding client’s birth perception and made sure it is aligned with their wishes, and motivated mothers to practice before the birth. I saw a great improvement in mother's performance during birth, and an increase in number of clients who actually ended up giving birth naturally."
Neri points out the fact that “Birth demands both physiological performance, responding to labor sensations with a new set of labor support tools and techniques, and mental performance, the acceptance of labor pains and strains and the ability to be with them in order to expand and allow the baby to come out. Therefore coaching can prepare mothers prior to the performance, as it does in sports. Mindful mothers wisely choose to sign up for childbirth education classes and hire a doula to ensure their mental, emotional, and physical preparedness for birth. Often times these mothers believe they have obtained enough resources to be fully prepared for birth; but it is far from the truth. When comparing the doula to the coach, the doula coaches her client during the performance instead of prior to the performance.” Neri also urges people to remember that in hospital-based births doulas are coaching the mother in a somewhat hostile environment, since Labor and Delivery staff is not even trained in assisting natural birth, and they are likely to recommend medical tools to manage the birth.
The Birth Coach Method philosophy is aligned with educating doulas as birth coaches to resolve current issues in the doula practice. By implementing the coaching philosophy Neri aimed to define the doula role better than ever. "Coaches do not advise or give orders to their clients, they do not have all the answers, but they work with strong questions that facilitate clarity, motivate, and inspire. They evoke excellence in their clients and lead them to perform well by providing all the necessary tools. Coaches assign areas of practice that bring their clients closer to achieving their goals." The fifteen classes offered by the Birth Coach Method training present great balance between body of knowledge and the practical coaching tools related to the topic. Birth Coaches are called to have prenatal coaching sessions with their clients on a regular basis, prior to the performance - the birth. The students are also coached via webinars on a regular basis, which helps model the coaching process and practice. The training includes supervision process for the first two births of the students. Neri believes that Birth Coaches with this kind of training will empower their clients to have natural and active births, which take a great level of conviction and performance. "When birthing moms will arrive the hospital ready to give birth like amazons, exhibiting high levels of conviction and inner strength," says Neri, "the medical system will have to adjust its ways and increase trust in the human body and mind."
Neri L. Choma