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Doula care: Midwife builds healthy practice in Lawrence

August 31, 2009

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Lawrence           resident           Stefanie Olson works as a professional doula, helping women through the birthing process. Olson is sitting on a birth ball, which helps women alternate positions during labor.

Lawrence resident Stefanie Olson works as a professional doula, helping women through the birthing process. Olson is sitting on a birth ball, which helps women alternate positions during labor.

Births and babies are recurrent themes in Stefanie Olson’s life. As a professional doula, she’s helped more than 100 women through and beyond the birthing process.

Her 1972 birth in Superior, Neb., made unexpected headlines.

“My mother went into labor while playing the church organ,” she says. “My parents went directly to the hospital (two blocks away) after church, and I was born shortly afterwards.”

The local high school was celebrating Future Homemakers of America week, so the local newspaper ran her story and photograph. It crowned her “Little Miss FHA.”

The family’s farm fueled the young homemaker’s interest in babies.

“We had many barn cats, and I used them as ‘babies’ when I played house with my brother and sister,” Olson says. “In junior high, I set my mind on being an obstetrician, but my mother dissuaded me. I decided to become an art history professor instead.”

She graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor of Arts in art history and French in 1994, worked for a year at a bank in Lincoln, enrolled at Kansas University and graduated with an Master of Arts in art history in 1997. She embarked on her doctorate, married Mark Olson, KU art history department’s site curator for visual resources in 1998, and became pregnant with her first child.

“I wanted a ‘home atmosphere’ for the birth without the standard hospital interventions, and a friend recommended Topeka’s Birth and Women’s Center,” she says. “During labor, I knew everyone who was there and trusted they would listen to my needs. ... They suggested things that helped me stay comfortable and relaxed. I never felt pressured, confused or out of options. I felt so empowered after the birth, I felt I could do anything.”

Subsequent conversations with other women, her midwife and nurses encouraged Olson to consider using her teaching and birthing experiences to lead childbirth classes to help other women have better experiences.

“Doula” is a Greek word for “woman’s servant.” Today it refers to trained, experienced professionals (male and female) who provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support for mothers before, during and after birth.

“We don’t perform medical tasks,” Olson explains. “We’re there to do whatever the woman needs throughout the birthing process.”

Olson completed Doulas of North America (DONA) training and certification in 2004 and re-certification in 2007. She’s self-employed and says some medical professionals were skeptical about her role when she first started. Now several doctors refer patients to her.

“The health care system is beginning to recognize the validity of trained doulas as part of the birth team,” Olson says. “Some national hospitals have instituted doula programs to provide doula care for their patients. I hope this becomes a reality in Kansas.”

Comments

Kat Christian 5 years, 5 months ago

I think this is fantastic. I studied as a Doula years ago, but haven't practiced it in years. I learned so much of what is so natural in women giving birth. Healthier for the baby, healthier for the woman. I think there are way too many C-sections today and they are mostly for the convenience of the Doctor, not always a necesscity for the mother. There is no reason why a woman cannot give birth at home if she is healthy and the baby is fine. Having a baby is not a medical symtom, but a natural event that is a natural part of life. So many good reasons to list, one mother/baby bonding in the first hour is so important and last a lifetime. Just think of the cost savings in hospital expenses saved. I applaud Stephanie and support what she is doing 100%.

sportsmom2724 5 years, 5 months ago

Stephanie is a great Doula and even patients who choose to be in the hospital for their labor and delivery, use her services. She provides great comfort to those in her care. Keep up the good work!

KansasPerson 5 years, 5 months ago

The headline is written in a way that promotes confusion between "doula" and "midwife." They are actually two different things, Journal-World.

Nice to read about Stephanie anyway. Did you ever find out why your mother didn't want you to study to be an obstetrician?

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