By Léo Azambuja

The women of Seven Sisters Doula Collective, from left to right, Sarah Kruse, Maureen O'Connor, Kathy Conery, Mieko Aoki, Barbara Essmann and Lana Olson.

The women of Seven Sisters Doula Collective, from left to right, Sarah Kruse, Maureen O’Connor, Kathy Conery, Mieko Aoki, Barbara Essmann and Lana Olson.

You’re about to give birth, and the pain and flow of emotions get in the way of clear thinking. No problem — your doula is there to make sure everything goes just the way you planned.

“When you’re in labor, you are in a total different space, and you have no concept of what’s going on in the world around you because you are so in the moment,” doula Kathy Conery said. “So it’s so helpful to have somebody there that knows what you want and to help you get that as much as possible.”

And if things don’t go exactly right, she said, the doula has the mother’s plan in mind and can help by trying different things.

Conery is a member of the Seven Sisters Doula Collective, a resource center for pregnant women on Kaua‘i seeking a doula.

The name doula comes from the Greek language, and means “a woman who serves” or “handmaiden.”

“Basically, a doula is somebody that supports the mother,” Conery said. “Everything we do is just in support of her.”

Many still confuse doulas with midwives. But doulas don’t deliver babies or do any medical treatment — what they do is create a safe emotional environment to make giving birth easier.

Conery said she usually meets with a mother-to-be a few times to get an idea of what she wants when she gives birth. A doula also helps with massage, pressure points, breathing, giving the mother’s partner a break during labor or anything else that will relieve stress for the mother.

Conery said she would love if hospitals would encourage women to have a doula, especially because studies show that having that additional support has an array of benefits, such as less medical intervention, less C-section, easier births and less stress.

Doulas logoAccording to the Evidence Based Birth website, women who use doulas have 31 percent decrease in the use of labor-inducing drug Pitocin, 28 percent decrease in the risk of C-section, 12 percent increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth, 9 percent decrease in the use of any pain-relief medication,14 percent decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery and 34 percent decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience.

The name Seven Sisters came about because of the Main Hawaiian Islands, mirrored in the Pleiades, also known as Seven Sisters.

“There are currently six of us, but we are open to all doulas joining us so that we can work together to bring more awareness about the importance of having a doula present at birth, which helps families experience birth as a rite of passage, rather than a medical event,” Conery said.

She estimates there are at least 20 doulas on Kaua‘i.

One of the members of the Seven Sisters, Barbara Essman of Sacred Birthing School, has graduated many doulas after a 16-week program she has taught a few times. However, Conery said, there is no legal certification required for someone to become a doula.

Doulas have been around forever, back when aunties or grandmothers would provide the service. It wasn’t until women started having babies in hospitals that it became a profession, she said.

Just knowing how helpful it is to provide doula services is what drives Conery to be there for other women, she said.

“It’s a huge, huge moment, sometimes longer than a moment, a few days, but it’s so overwhelming and life-changing, to be able to be there for someone at that time is so incredible.” Conery said. “You never see people in that pure raw, emotional intense state. It almost makes everything else seem like easy.”

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