Ravit Stren is a professional doula that has worked with and supported many women on their pregnancy journeys for the past decade. We sat down with Ravit to talk about pregnancy and what moms experience from her perspective as a doula.
Can you tell us about yourself and your experience so far as a professional doula?
18 years ago, during my first pregnancy, I was full of nerves. I was constantly afraid that something would happen to me or my baby. I was afraid of the pain of birth, of the uncertainty, of the expected change in my life, all of it. That’s when the concept of a doula entered my life.
I realized how much woman-to-woman support can help a mother through the most frightening yet exciting experience of her life. Since that time I have learned a lot and continue to learn from every expecting mom I meet. I’ve had the honor of accompanying many women through many different births from home births and hospital births, to medicated births and unmedicated births. I have witnessed families building strong relationships as a result of having positive birthing experiences and being part of that process is very important and meaningful to me. Two years ago, I established Gdoula, a doula service, so that I can continue to fulfill my mission on a larger scale. I want to reach as many women and families as possible and I believe this is the way to do it.
What does it mean for you to accompany a pregnant woman as a doula?
First of all, I see this as an honor, that a woman or a couple chooses me to take part in the most significant journey of their lives. I love to get to know the mother and her partner, identify their needs, their fears, and the tools and resources that they are bringing to the birth. I love providing them with information and ensuring that they know all of their options. I love giving them the sense of trust in my availability, and the knowledge that they can always consult with me and count on my assistance. I love being at the birth itself, reminding the mother of her strengths, ensuring that she always has a choice, and that she feels safe and secure. More than anything, I like that magical moment when they hold their newborn and are excited by and proud of the experience they went through up to this wonderful moment.
From which stage do you accompany a pregnant woman?
Most women feel the need to find a doula around the 27th week of pregnancy. However, I think the best time for a woman to find a doula is when she feels the need. There are women who notify me when they see two stripes on the stick, others arrive at the last minute. I enjoy accompanying them at every stage of the process.
In your opinion, what is important at every stage of pregnancy?
I believe that the path to a good birth experience comes from the balance between information collected and received by the mother, and her listening to her body and connecting to her fetus. As an assistant, I make sure to strengthen both, and allow her to develop her self-confidence during pregnancy and birth, plus her connection to her child.
I’ve heard you mention essence – can you share more about what you mean by that and how do you see your essence as a doula?
During my years working as a doula, I’ve trained doulas, done research, and learned that different women have different needs that are expressed in various ways during birth. I’ve also learned that we doulas see our essence in various ways, and therefore, each mother should find the doula who is suitable for her. Personally, I see my role as the connecting doula – the one who provides her knowledge and experience to the mother and her partner and assists her in a constructive communication with the care team.
Are there challenges in working with pregnant women?
Of course. Pregnancy is a challenging time – emotionally, physically, and even career and relationship wise. Entering the lives of a pregnant woman and her partner makes the doula a partner in confidence. We are involved in the good and the challenging moments, as well as the fears and anxieties that come up. Constant availability and readiness are crucial and important for the pregnant mother, and they require from me, as a doula, a lot of acceptance and patience. This is especially true because I give up my personal and family routine when an expecting mom needs me for an undetermined amount of time.
Do you experience challenges with doctors or hospitals?
Since the doula profession has been around where I live for just twenty years or so, it is not defined nor regulated yet. As such, there are no laws or rules that define clear boundaries of what is permitted and what is not. For this reason, it is not straightforward for the medical system to allow doulas to enter the delivery rooms that are governed by medical procedures and protocols. At the start of my career as a doula, I used to come to the delivery room as a friend, since I was wary of the medical system. Through the years, I’ve invested in cooperation with the medical teams – in understanding their approach to the process and forming healthy and compassionate communication, so that when I enter the delivery room, the professionals and I all know that we are working together for one purpose – a healthy and positive experience for the mother, the partner and the baby. One of my goals is to create a situation in which doulas and medical teams work together in cooperation for a better birthing experience.
What is your vision for the profession?
Improvement of the availability of choices for women giving birth, improvement of cooperation between medical teams and doulas for the benefit of the mothers, and improvement of the experiences of partners and spouses during birth.
What can you tell us about the emotional process that pregnant women undergo?
We live in a modern world. We feel the constant need to be in control – over our bodies, our schedule, our careers, and then – we become pregnant. Suddenly our body is ‘taken’ from us, it changes, and our schedules become less important – because it is most important to make sure that our pregnancy is normal and healthy. And career? Come on, what is more important than becoming a mother? As we near delivery day, we are supposed to ‘let go’ and ‘surrender’, but this is different from everything we were used to and taught throughout our entire lives. It’s no wonder we are full of anxieties when we approach birth and parenting.
When you accompany a pregnancy – what do you try to strengthen within a pregnant mother?
I don’t think you can change a person within nine months. I believe that to create a positive experience at birth, it is important that the pregnant woman know herself, know her resources and her limits, and find the way in which she feels comfortable letting go and surrendering in her way. I believe that there is no single correct way to experience pregnancy and birth, and I try to allow every mother to find her own way for a good birthing experience.
What is a guiding principle for a healthy pregnancy and a good birth?
Belief in oneself and one’s body, access to information and knowledge, and healthy communication with one’s partner and care team. That is my guiding light.
In your opinion, what is the importance of pregnancy follow-up at home?
I believe that for many women, home pregnancy follow-up can be a relaxing way to create a sense of security and control. It also gives expecting moms a new way to connect with the pregnancy and their baby.
Tell us about your familiarity with the monitoring of the fetal pulse?
The fetal pulse monitor at the birthing center serves as a significant tool for following up on the baby’s health. As a mother and a doula, I strongly believe in the medical approach – when there is any doubt, there’s no doubt, and the safety of the mother and fetus are above all. However, it is important for me to enable the mother’s positive experience. As a doula, I learned how to understand the monitor, understand its significance in the eyes of the medical team, and convey this understanding to the mother and her partner. My goal then is for this understanding to enable a sense of security and partnership in the process and for that to power the decisions the family makes.
How have you seen HeraBEAT contribute to your work as a doula?
As someone who accompanies women and is a partner in their concerns, I know that it’s sometimes difficult for the mother to connect with her unborn child and feel confident that everything is okay. Many women return frequently to the medical monitor or repeat ultrasound tests to make sure that their pregnancy is progressing properly, and that the baby is okay. I believe that for these women, HeraBEAT can be a way to better connect to their growing babies and to their pregnancies, and to relax, thereby enabling the continuation of a healthy and normal pregnancy.
How do you think HeraBEAT can benefit women during pregnancy?
I believe that HeraBEAT can be an excellent tool that fuels a connection to the pregnancy and the baby, plus a sense of control, efficacy, and serenity, which are so important for the health of the mom and her pregnancy.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I think we’re in a unique time now. Doulas are becoming much more, for lack of a better word ‘normal’ worldwide, and technology is advancing so quickly. While we often think of the prenatal care experience for moms as the most closely monitored, there’s so much room for improvement and innovative thought. We should think about the emotional side of all of this for the mom, for her partner and for the baby. Approaching pregnancy and birth from a holistic perspective, personalized for each family, is absolutely the way I see the world going and I’m excited to be part of it.