Saturday, March 22, 2008

Snapshot: Debbie Boucher, DONA-certified doula and certified nurse midwife

note: In order to bring you accurate information concerning hot parenting issues, I'm teaming up with some local professionals who have agreed to share their knowledge in each of their fields of expertise. I will regularly consult with the professionals when writing about topics like breastfeeding, babywearing, health and natural childbirth and child rearing. Here is the second of four profiles, each of which will help you get to know the professionals who will be interviewed for other posts!

**Debbie Boucher is now a Certified Nurse Midwife in Lake County, Illinois. If you would like, please read about my wonderful experience with her as a midwife attending my natural homebirth. **

Debbie Boucher is the kind of person most women would want at their labor and delivery if they only knew what great help she could provide.
As a DONA-certified doula and natural childbirth instructor for the Bradley Method, Debbie attends births to provide labor support in the form of coaching, massaging, positioning and advocacy. Also a registered nurse, Debbie has been helping women achieve satisfying, natural births for 15 years. Now that she has earned her midwife certification, Debbie is the only midwife assissting in homebirths in Lake County, Ill.

"Ninety-five percent of births I attend as a doula have required no pain medication," Debbie said. "Any time you ever hear a little scream, it's when the baby is crying."

The scene Debbie paints about birth is starkly different from how the media and movies in the United States portray labor and delivery.

Natural childbirth may seem like a crazy option to many American women because women who are laboring on TV experience excruciating pain that can only be remedied by an epidural chalked full of pain medication. But, Debbie insisted, there's a better way to give birth that isn't scary and doesn't require medical intervention.

"Natural childbirth starts with education," she said. "I think when you become informed of the capabilities of your body, you are able to trust your body and trust nature to know the right way to give birth. There's a natural way without intervention."

As a Bradley Method instructor, Debbie teaches women and their partners about having a healthy pregnancy and how the body works during labor and delivery. Her students walk away with the knowledge they need to have a safe, joyful, natural labor and delivery that doesn't seem crazy at all.

"Usually when people think something is crazy it's a result of fear," Debbie said. "It's been proven over and over again when people are afraid of something it’s because they don’t understand. Once you understand, there's usually not fear."

Debbie is so committed to helping women have satisfying, natural births she decided to further her education and become a midwife; as a midwife, Debbie is able to actually manage labors and deliver babies instead of solely coaching and assisting women during labor. Never heard of anyone using a midwife to deliver her baby?

You're not alone; most U.S. women seek obstetricians for prenatal care.

While midwives are often the first level of care for women who have normal, low-risk pregnancies in other developed countries, only eight percent of U.S. births are attended by midwives, Debbie said; this doesn't exactly spell good news for laboring and pregnant women in the United States.

"Among industrialized nations, the [United States] has one of worst infant-mortality rates," Debbie said. "The big difference is the [United States] is the only country that doesn’t use midwifes for most low-risk pregnancies."

Debbie also advocated that midwives provide a different type of care than a obstetricians.
"They are more supportive [of natural labor], and they offer longer prenatal visits and education about pregnancy and birth," she said.

Let's be clear, though: while midwives do not have the medical training of a doctor, they are trained to be experts in pregnancy, labor and delivery. And for most low-risk pregnancies, that's exactly what is needed, Debbie explained. Midwives help women to have childbirths the way nature intended with fewer medical interferences.

"It's about not interfering with the natural process and letting birth unfold the way nature would want it to go so it can complete itself in a more natural and joyous way," she said.

The goal of natural childbirth is to have an alert and active mother who delivers an alert and active baby. Often, medical interventions in low-risk labors and deliveries compromise a mother and/or a baby's activity level and alertness, which in turn compromises breastfeeding.

"The goal is to have a healthy baby that will breastfeed in the first hour. Most interventions get in the way of that. Mom and baby often don’t get together within the first hour, which makes it difficult to get baby off to a good start," Debbie said.

Babies become sleepy after the first hour, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to help the mother and baby learn how to breastfeed. Also, Debbie explained that babies are given formula if their blood sugars drop. Formula fills up the baby's stomach and takes longer to digest. The baby then becomes sleepy and not alert enough to breastfeed.

"When baby does wake up and is ready to eat again, the baby is often frustrated at the hard work it has to do at the breast," Debbie said. "Baby may not try as hard at the breast to learn to breastfed once it has had formula from the bottle."

Debbie's interest in assisting births began after the birth of her first child.

"I had some interventions I wish I would have been able to avoid," she said. "I want to help other women avoid those same interventions. The second birth was much better."

Debbie had taken Bradley Method classes, which she said helped relax during her labors. She then began recommending the Bradley Method class to her pregnant friends. A few of them needed coaches during their labors, so Debbie volunteered to help. After she coached four of her friends during labor and delivery and each had a beautiful, natural childbirths, she knew she wanted to continue helping women have natural childbirths so she earned certifications to become a Bradley Method instructor and a certified doula.

Before she began working as a doula and Bradley Method instructor, Debbie was using the degree she earned from the University of Illinois in Chicago in computer science and mathematics.

"I got sidetracked in college and for about 15 years after," she said. "I wouldn’t go back and change anything, though, because I think God had plans for me. I probably would have gone into obstetrics because I didn’t know midwives existed. I had to have children to realize it. It all started with the Bradley Method. I had to go to that class and learn that there was a natural way of giving birth."

Here are some quick stats about Debbie and her practice:
Area of expertise: Debbie assists women and their partners during labor as a Certified Nurse Midwife and doula, and she educates expecting parents about childbirth as a Bradley Method instructor. Debbie also is a registered nurse.

Experience: Debbie has attended more than 150 births during the last 15 years.

Credentials: BS in computer science and mathematics from University of Illinois at Chicago, 1980

AAHCC (certified Bradley Method instructor), 1998
Certified Doula, DONA, 1999
CNM, 2008

BS in nursing from Loyola University, 2005
MS in nursing, Midwife specialty, University of Illinois at Chicago, May 2008

Life Away From Work: single mother of two active teenagers

Need her help?:

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