Are you prepared for one of the biggest days of your life?


Giving birth to your baby is a momentous event, particularly if it’s your first child. It is your initiation into motherhood, a rite of passage and you will be entering into unfamiliar territory. You may not have thought about just how big this will feel, or perhaps you’ve been thinking about the big day obsessively with equal amounts of curiosity, trepidation or uncertainty.

Much of our thoughts and energy during pregnancy go toward eating well, exercising and preparing for the days and months after the baby’s arrival, but it is equally important to consider how you can prepare to have a good labour and birth on this momentous day.

With so many opinions and different birth stories to hear, it can be difficult to know who or what to trust and how to feel confident about giving birth to your baby. Navigating this unfamiliar territory doesn’t have to be arduous, especially when there are experienced guides known as doulas or birth attendants. A guide to help you with birth preparation, creating a birth plan and gathering a good support team during pregnancy and birth, so when the big day arrives and you first greet your newborn babe, it can be the best experience it can possibly be!

What is a Doula?

A doula is another word to describe a birth attendant, birth coach or birth support companion.  She offers guidance and information as well as emotional and physical support.

A Doula will help you and your partner prepare for birth by giving you tips and tools for effective labour, help you understand what to expect when you are in hospital and assist you to navigate your way through risk management. They also work with you to create a plan for the kind of birth experience you would like to have and offer reassurance for when things don’t go to plan, bringing a calming presence to what can potentially be a confusing time.

Doulas add to a positive birth experience where birthing women feel safer, more informed and more aware of birth choices and the implications of these choices.

Why do I need a Doula?

Most Australian woman have fragmented maternity care and see multiple people across the pregnancy and birth journey. This can leave some women feeling unsupported and fearful about birth because they haven’t developed a relationship with a trusted guide, who they can rely on to assist and support them during the physically and emotionally intense experience of giving birth.

A good Doula is respectful of the demanding roles that obstetricians and midwifes have in the birth process. They understand that hospital midwives and medical staff can be weighed down by paperwork, protocols and safety during the birth, which can sometimes mean they have less time for the emotional, practical and physical care of birthing women.

By having a Doula you are filling in the gaps and giving yourself consistency of care and an opportunity to develop a supportive, trusting and educational relationship which has multiple benefits for you, your support team and family.

Does a doula need special training? Are they qualified to provide advice?

Anyone can call themselves a doula, so it is important to check that your doula has been trained by a reputable and experienced person or organisation.  It is also important to remember that doulas cannot give you medical advice or diagnose and assess your condition. This is the job of your GP, medical specialist or midwife.

A doula’s role is to educate and support you in birth preparation through to labour, delivery and immediately post-partum.  It is always best to engage a trained birth attendant doula. Our FGHG birth attendants have been trained with one of Australia’s most experienced childbirth educators and counsellors, Rhea Dempsey.

What happens at each appointment with my FGHG Doula?

You can engage a doula to attend your birth at any stage of your pregnancy but it is ideal to establish the relationship a few months before the baby is due. This allows time for you to get to know each other and feel comfortable and confident with your birth attendant.

Doulas at Fertile Ground Health Group are also massage therapists and many women choose to have regular pregnancy massage to further strengthen the relationship, build trust and to support a positive labour and birth. FGHG birth attendants can also recommend who to see when you need help with common ailments during pregnancy and what kind of support you might need post-natally for birth recovery, breastfeeding and nutrition.

At the initial 30 minute meeting – you will get to know your practitioner, how they work, what to expect, costs, share your concerns and history and have your questions answered to make an informed choice.

At the Birth meeting – this is a comprehensive 2 hour meeting that is ideally done as early as possible in the pregnancy because it is all about developing the relationship, establishing the birth team and bringing all interested parties together – i.e. partner, family and other support people, anyone who is attending the birth.

You will prepare a birth plan which talks you through all aspects of what to expect at the birth, which will allow you to get clear about your birth preferences and be more informed about the times when decisions and choices need to be made about pain relief, vaccination, placenta and umbilical cord.  You’ll also discuss where to park, medications and what food to bring as well as techniques to use during labour for active birth and optimal foetal positioning, birth preparation and resources you can use for any issue that arises.

Leading up to your due date you will have access to your birth attendant:

  • With 24 hour on call period from 38 weeks until the birth of your baby
  • Support for the full duration of active labour and the immediate period (1-2hrs) after your baby is born
  • One post-natal visit at your home to ‘debrief’ after the birth
  • Access to a “back up” birth attendant if needed

Having a trained birth attendant at your side to help you navigate unknown territory, support you and provide guidance ultimately gives you more confidence, reassurance and preparation for one of the biggest days in your life – the birth of your baby and the growth of your family.

More information about doulas at FGHG:

Fiona Harrison, FGHG Massage Therapist and Birth Attendant

Michelle Lowe, FGHG Massage Therapist and Birth Attendant

More information and prices

Getting to know your practitioner – Michelle Lowe, Massage Therapist & Doula

with Michelle Lowe, FGHG pregnancy and fertility massage therapist and doula

What do you love about your work as a remedial, pregnancy and fertility massage therapist?

There’s so much that I love about what I do as a massage therapist, I feel I am very fortunate and lucky to be able to do work that I am deeply passionate about. I love being able to see the transition patients make from when I first see them to when they leave the treatment like a whole new person and then seeing the progress they make with each treatment. I love being a part of the journey with women to falling pregnant and helping them to switch off and just receive. Hearing my patients’ good news that they’ve fallen pregnant, or the relief they feel after a pregnancy massage is really rewarding for me as I love to help.

What initially inspired you to add womb massage to your skill set?

So I used to suffer from really bad period pains, with no real understanding as to why I was suffering from them. I tried many different things to help, but for me they weren’t overly successful or not well suited for my lifestyle. It was definitely more of a personal journey for me initially to train in fertility/ womb massage. I remember sitting in circle on the first day and all my symptoms were explained so clearly to me as to why I was experiencing period pains. With this experience I learnt so much about my body that I wanted to help others who experience the same.

What types of benefits do you commonly see in your patients doing regular womb massage?

Everyone can be vastly different as all cases are unique. The main benefits I will see in almost everyone is that they are more relaxed and grounded. Almost everyone reports a lighter feeling in their abdomen, better bowel movement, reduction in period pain and feeling less stress and anxiety.

In your work you support many women on their journey to becoming pregnant. Do you recommend they continue to see you after becoming pregnant? What benefits does massage have to offer women in pregnancy?

Absolutely, massage is really beneficial to have throughout pregnancy. It’s great for relaxation, especially during first trimester or if any stage of pregnancy is causing some stress and/ or anxiety. It’s also great for relieving any aches and pains associated with pregnancy or pre-existing aches and pains that may be exacerbated by pregnancy. Beyond that, its beneficial for sleep and circulation, especially during third trimester when everything is starting to feel compromised. I like to think massage gives you a boost mentally and physically to help you feel more comfortable and relaxed.

You are also a doula (also known as a birth attendant). What inspired you to become a doula?

This has always been a tricky question to answer as there are many reasons why I decided to become a doula/ birth attendant. I think one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to become a doula was to support women and be with women during a time that can make you feel very vulnerable. I’ve been treating pregnant women for many years and I’ve heard lots of stories from women who hadn’t felt well supported during their births and many other stories when women haven’t been aware of their choices and options during pregnancy and labour, maybe wanting to have done it differently. If you look at the statistics and the possible causes of medical intervention, having a support person, particularly a doula, has shown positive research results. I’d love to help women have better birthing experiences.

What sorts of things do you do to support women in your work as a doula?

As a doula I am an emotional and physical support person during the pregnancy and labour of a mum to be. I support the mother in helping her through the pregnancy in the lead up to the labour, really getting to know her and her partner and what’s important to them during their labour experience. I personally like to go over any fears and try our best to work with them so that a couple can have a positive birth experience.

We go over a birth plan and their options as to what they might like to experience and how they usually cope with pain. I am currently working on a plan to try and determine tools that couples can use to help women cope with pain. This will allow partners to have a better idea of what they can do and possibly what role the mother wants from them – whether that’s eye contact, movement, massage, pressure points, music, rebozo work, there are sooo many things we can use to help create a safe space that is working with pain (if that’s what a mother’s goal is). Having said that I obviously bring in my own tools to work with pain and that’s massage, rebozo techniques (using a shawl) and pressure points, which are also great at boosting oxytocin for labour. I can use and teach these tools to partners so that we can support each other in supporting the mother to be.

After the birth I also like to meet up with the new family and see how they are going and offer any support that I can during this transitional phase too.

Can you share a moment from your work that you will never forget?

I will never forget that magical moment of seeing a baby born for the first time. I was so in awe of the mother’s strength and perseverance, it’s a magnificent journey to witness and be a part of, words cannot describe the feeling in the room once that baby is born. There are ups and downs, but you’re working as a team to support the mother and father along the way. That first birth taught me soo much, and I think it will forever affect my approach to being a birth attendant.

Your patients are often seeing acupuncturists and naturopaths as well. What type of benefits do you see in these types of shared care?

I find the women and couples who are seeing an acupuncturist and or a naturopath are very well supported through all aspects of health. We’re all looking at different angles of the individuals’ health and I find these clients tend to have better overall health and reach their health goals quicker, generally speaking.

What other modalities do you find your clients get benefit from?

Meditation and yoga, and when necessary counselling.

When I see patients who have a lot of mind chatter and trouble switching off I like to advise meditation to calm the monkey brain.

I also hear lots of good feedback from clients who have seen a counsellor, whether it’s to put things into perspective or have someone with an unbiased opinion to talk to.

I am also a yoga enthusiast and will often advise patients to do certain yoga poses to help stretch and strengthen muscles for better alignment, but if people can get to a class that’s even better.


Learn more about Michelle Lowe, remedial massage therapist at Fertile Ground Health Group or make an appointment to have one of her fabulous massage treatments. Online Booking