People have asked why I chose to go with “International Doula Service” for my business name, when many doulas keep it local with their city or state. It’s a fair question that, up until now, I have not answered on my website. I grew up in a military family and have been blessed to live all over the world, because of this I have a passion for learning the traditions and customs of cultures that are different from mine. I want to incorporate this into my business by studying other countries, talking to birth professionals across the world, and ultimately moving from place to place immersing myself in various birth cultures. My long-term dream is to write a book about birth across the world and share the experiences I have been part of.
For now I live in the US, but I will not let that prevent me from reaching out to birth professionals across the world, and this is my first blog in the series “Birth Beyond Borders.”
Today I want to introduce The Netherlands!
I have had the opportunity to work with Denise, the owner of a private company called “Doula Denise” and learn more about the services that she offers and gain a better understanding of the birth culture in The Netherlands.
My across-the-world-birth-colleague Denise has been in business for 4 years, and she works with local mothers as a private childbirth educator, prenatal massage therapist, birth doula, and postpartum doula. Her clients are extremely happy with the support and education that she provides, so it should not come as a surprise that she has 5-star reviews across the board. Here are some things her previous clients have said about her:
“She is a very knowledgeable, caring, and enthusiastic lady who is passionate about her work as a doula and childbirth educator.”
“I felt ‘zen’ all day after the massage, Denise is competent, pleasant in handling, and I highly recommend her to every pregnant woman!”
“Denise is skillful and sweet, she is involved and very professional!”
If you are in the Amsterdam area and you are looking for a doula you can find more of her information at her website: https://www.douladenise.nl/ and her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/douladenise/about/?ref=page_internal
In The Netherlands, pregnancy and birth are viewed as a natural process, and the majority of Dutch women prepare for a natural birth with a midwife who sees them throughout their pregnancy. Many women will take a birth class and read books, often combined with yoga or another form of physical exercise to prepare the body. Hypnobirthing is becoming more popular in Amsterdam but hasn’t spread outside of the city just yet.
There are four birth locations available to women in the Netherlands: hospitals, birth centers, homes, and the hotel Geboortehotel. Denise estimates that 55% of women deliver in hospitals, 25% deliver in birth centers, 15% deliver in homes, and 5% deliver in the hotel. Working with a midwife is the most popular option, but if any medical issues come up either during pregnancy or during delivery, care will be transferred to an OB or a medical-midwife. Thankfully, everything is close-by in The Netherlands, and transferring to a hospital with more specialized care is easy. For more information about birth locations in The Netherlands check out Denise’s recent blog https://www.douladenise.nl/options-birth-locations-amsterdam/
The hospitals are well established with good labor and delivery units, and some of the hospitals have NICUs as well. The cesarean rate is the lowest of all industrialized countries (14%) and it is only reserved for emergencies or medical conditions where c-sections are recommended; elective c-sections are almost unheard of in The Netherlands. In hospitals, women primarily give birth on their backs, this mostly stems from the training that doctors and medical-midwives receive. Outside of the hospital, especially during births with a doula present, the optimal position is vertical with support from a birthing stool or in a birth pool.
Prior to about 5 years ago, baby showers were not commonly practiced in The Netherlands, slowly they are gaining more popularity though. Once a baby is born, families hang a flag outside of their home to announce to the world that a baby boy or baby girl was born. It is also customary that when people come to visit the new family they bring “beschuit met muisjes” or biscuits with anise seed balls that have pink or blue sugar coating around them.
The postpartum period is well supported by the government with:
* Mandatory 16-weeks paid maternity leave
* Upon returning to work parents get 6 hours of paid leave each week.
* The support of a Kraamzorg - a maternity nurse - who provides in-home support during the first 10 days after giving birth. Everyone gets 24-80 hours (typically on the higher end for mothers over the age of 35) of part-medical and part-practical support from the Kraamzorg.
*In home check-up at 14 days by a nurse or midwife.
In keeping with natural births, many women try to breastfeed their babies once they are born. For those who have difficulty with breastfeeding, using formula is accepted and supported as a great option. The country has mixed feelings about breastfeeding in public, and while it is not considered a shameful thing, it is not openly accepted either. The majority of women will use covers or find a quiet area to feed their baby. Many moms will quit breastfeeding around 3 months postpartum when they return to work.
The Netherlands is on my list of places to visit and possibly live, their perspective on birth and the natural woman seems so healthy and empowering to me. It has been incredible learning about some of their beliefs and traditions, and peeking behind the curtain into the world of a Dutch doula has been truly marvelous.