As a doula, Case College Scholar Rachel Pope has trained to be at the bedside of women during the birithing process. She was so impressed with her experience that she shared what she had learned with other Case students and the public during the special informational session, "What Your Mama Never Told You," earlier this fall.
Pope, a fourth-year student in the College Scholars Program at Case, organized the event as part of her capstone project for the Scholars and her senior project in anthropology. She had assistance from the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women at Case.
The program featured a physician, a midwife and a doula from the community who talked about the childbirth process and options today's parents have.
"The intention of the event was to help women and their partners understand the birthing process so they are more informed and so that the birth is more normal and not as terrifying as it is to many when the time actually comes," said Pope. "I truly believe that women will have a better experience of childbirth and labor if they are informed well in advance of their pregnancy and are comfortable with knowing what to expect, and the options they have."
The College Scholar in Case’s premier leadership development program became interested in the topic of child birth during the course, “Anthropology of Childbirth, Obstetrics and Midwifery,” which was taught by Robbie Davis-Floyd, a world-renowned scholar on child birth who was at Case three years as the Flora Stone Mather Visiting Professor in anthropology. Pope also has done research and observed childbirth and maternal health practices in Ghana, West Africa, and Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
She particularly became interested in doulas, who are individuals who are not family members but support women during labor. Doulas have been assisting women since antiquity when they first were Greek female slaves who were trained to help women during child birth. Today doulas are becoming an increasingly important support during the birthing process.
Last summer, Pope underwent the training from the Doulas of North America International to become a doula. Before completing her training and beginning as a volunteer doula at MetroHealth Medical Center, she must assist three women during their labors and deliveries. She has also been mentored by John Kennell, a Case physician and professor of pediatrics who has done research on the benefits of doulas.
Pope, who will complete her masters of public health degree next year, is interested in family and women’s health issues and particularly obstetrics. As part of her education for her master degree, she will undertake an internship at the Women's Dignity Project in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. "The organization helps women with obstetric fistula obtain health care services and advocates for women’s and human rights through preventing fistula," said Pope. The medical condition results in tears from childbirth process. Many women are ostracized by society for this condition. Pope will explore how women receive surgery to repair the condition and adjust to then return to their families and communities.
The senior from Pittsburgh, Pa., eventually hopes to attend medical or osteopathic school to train as a doctor in family health or obstetrics.
"My goal is to work with women and their families in underserved populations in as much of a holistic way as possible," said Pope.
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