The doula changing the way women experience birth

She Births founder Nadine Richardson is changing the way expecting couples experience birth, as well as reducing the need for medical interventions during labour.

The yoga teacher and doula, who has been assisting women during birth for over 20 years, wants more couples to enjoy a positive birth experience and has created a ground-breaking program that can do just that. Available online and as a weekend workshop, She Births combines eastern philosophy with evidenced-based research to present a truly holistic picture of birth to expecting couples, equipping them with the knowledge they need to move though birth, as well as the pain management strategies to cope along the way.

So far, couples who go through the She Births program are raving about their birth experience, calling it positive and beautiful, but more importantly, Nadine’s work has been proven to help reduce medical interventions during births, including c-sections, epidurals and perineal trauma.

She Births creator Nadine Richardson

It started with her own birth

When Nadine recalls her own birth experience, she remembers feeling shocked and disappointed with what birth was really like. “I’d spent three months in birth education programs, and was already a yoga teacher,” she says. “I thought I’d go really well in birth, but I was shocked at how hard it was. I came out thinking ‘What the hell was that?’. I felt like I hadn’t learnt anything from the birth education I took part in.”

Nadine decided to support women to have a better birth experience than she had. As a prenatal yoga teacher and birth doula, Nadine put together her own birth education program to change the face of birth education, as well as reduce the rates of medical interventions in Australian hospitals.

She Births, created by Nadine in 2008, has recently become Australia’s first childbirth education class to partner with health fund HCF, it’s also the first of its kind to be scientifically verified, with studies demonstrating dramatic improvements in birth outcomes for mums and babies.

“She Births cuts through the whole cascade of intervention as well as improves maternal and foetal outcomes,” Nadine explains. “We compared She Births couples with those that attended hospital programs in two major hospitals and found that She Births couples had a 65% reduction in epidurals and a 44% reduction in c-sections.”

A different sort of birth class

What makes She Births so unique is that it combines eastern philosophy with scientific, evidenced-based research to present a holistic picture of the labour and birth process to expecting couples. They learn about yoga, hypnosis and acupressure to help them move through the birth, but they’re also taught about the practical side of having a baby: how birth works, what questions to ask and how to approach whatever birth situation they’re presented with.

Nadine believes this is a new and fresh approach compared with hospital birthing classes, as well as the various private birth classes available. “There’s a lot of things you don’t need to know that are being taught in traditional birthing classes. You don’t need to know what an epidural needle looks like, which some courses teach. Why do you need to see something so petrifying when you’re pregnant? There are more important things to know, like ‘How should we approach the need for an epidural?’ and ‘Where should my partner be?'”

The results are in and they’re astounding

Trial runs of the program have yielded incredible results that have shocked Nadine as well as researchers collating the data. Recent studies compared She Births couples with couples who went through a standard hospital birth class and the results confirmed a substantial drop in the rate of epidurals and c-sections for those who went though the She Births program. As well as this, She Births couples experienced shorter labour and lower incidences of perineal trauma.

Sydney mum of three and doula, Anna-Maria Boelskov, says doing Nadine’s program changed the way she felt about birth. “I had a big fear about giving birth, and didn’t want to think about it. Going into the She Births course, I was worried, fearful and doubtful that I could handle the pain of birth. But when I walked out, I couldn’t even remember what I was worried about. I came out as a woman who believed in my body’s capacity to give birth and believed it was a natural process and that I could do it. It was a huge transformation. ”

Anna-Maria and her family

The way women birth matters

According to Nadine, the way women birth has a direct impact on how they enter motherhood, in that that a positive birth experience can mean beginning their new journey on a powerful note. “It can mean you come into motherhood feeling empowered and more intuitive,” she says. “Motherhood is a hard ride – we don’t live in a village, we’re not surrounded by aunts and grandmothers around helping us out. We’re alone. We need to feel strong and be able to trust ourselves. Birth is an initiation into motherhood, it’s a rite of passage. ”

Preparing for your own birth?

Both Nadine and Anna-Maria are strong advocates for the support a birth doula can offer in the delivery suite, who, unlike a midwife or obstetrician, is there to support you throughout labour and birth. As well as this, both women agree that preparation for birth is about empowering yourself with knowledge, making sure your partner is on the same page as you, and building yourself a support team of people who know what your needs and wishes are for the birth. “You need support during birth, you can’t do everything on your own,” says Anna-Maria, who is also a birth doula. “Your support team needs to know who you are as an individual so they can support you accordingly.”

Really understanding the birth process, as well as the choices and options you have throughout it, means you’re more likely to voice an opinion with the people helping you give birth, says Nadine. “It’s up to us as individuals to build our knowledge about birth and know how to ask questions and engage in conversations and decisions with caregivers. I’m deeply committed to giving women an intelligent program that can help them do that.”

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