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NORFOLK -- Some first-time mothers who don't want to use pain medicine and want to deliver in Bon Secours DePaul Hospital's midwifery center must hire a doula.

Christine Gow wanted her daughter Chloe to come into the world unmedicated.

'I knew I could do it if I just had the right support around me,' she said.

That support was a doula from Birth in Sight who would be with her at Bon Secours DePaul Hospital's midwifery center. Doula refers to an experienced woman who helps women during labor, delivery and/or the post-delivery period.

Gow admits she almost asked for medication, but made it through.

'I looked up at and said 'is this what I'm supposed to be doing?' I think if she hadn't had there, I might have moved into that need for an epidural.'

'We have an 80% success rate with doulas. It's made a huge difference,' says Nurse/midwife Blair Conger.

Doulas aren't just for women. They can help the father cope with the birth experience.

Doula charges aren't commonly covered by insurance. A doula in training is usually free or only charges for travel or at babysitting rates.

For women having birth at DePaul outside the midwifery center, no doula is necessary, they can have a midwife and they can try to go without medications. However, if they need pain relief, epidurals are available, said Bon Secours spokeswoman Lynne Zultanky.

For information, contact Doulas of Tidewater or Birth in Sight Va.

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