Doula Floriane ‘Flo’ Zitouni, founder of Espace Bien Naitre

Doula Floriane Zitouni is a mother of 3. She was born and raised in Nice. She’s been a doula for almost 10 years and seen more than 80 babies being born. Her passions are all things perinatal and travel.

What is the “normal” procedure in terms of check ups and scans for pregnant women in France?
In France, you have to let the social security know that you are pregnant within 3 months. Then once a month, you need to do a check up with a midwife or gynaecologist. Legally, in order to get government support (CAF) you have to do 3 scans (one during each trimester).

When do women need to choose their hospitals?
Until the last trimester there is no real need to choose.

Are they guaranteed a hospital of their choice or are they given a hospital as assigned by their gynaecologist?
For public hospitals, the procedure is really simple. If you are followed by a gynaecologist, you will have to choose the (private) clinic where he is practicing. Otherwise, you will have to do the other way around : choose the clinic and then a gynaecologist that practices there.

Do your services differ from the French system in any way?
Doulas are not yet recognised in France. We are not practicing in the medical area. We are not trained for that. We are supporting couples in the emotional side and with information. We are not replacing midwives or gynaecologists but complementing the team around the pregnancy.

What is a doula?
The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labor is generally shorter with fewer complications, and babies breastfeed more easily.

A Doula:
Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
Stays with the woman throughout the labor if she wishes it
Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures
Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level
Offers companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum period
Assists with newborn care and family adjustment
Offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary.

Why use a doula?
Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualised care based on their circumstances and preferences. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth tends to result in shorter labor with fewer complications, reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience, reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans, and reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals.

Research shows parents who receive support can:
Feel more secure and cared for
Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
Have greater success with breastfeeding
Have greater self-confidence
Have less postpartum depression
Have lower incidence of abuse.

How accommodating are the French public and private hospitals to natural births?
It really depends from one place to another and from one practitioner to another. So you have to choose your gynaecologist/midwife depending on what you are expecting more or less.

What advice would you give a woman looking for a natural birth in France?
Knowing what she wants deep in herself and then prepare herself correctly. Finding the right people to surround her and support her.

Are home births common in France?
They are getting a bit more common but its only 2% of births in France! The medical team are not really comfortable with it.

What are the main reasons women choose to have a home birth?
Usually, after a first experience that they didn’t enjoy, they want something more smooth and be more respected.

What are people’s main concerns about home birth?
Of course security, baby and mom’s health. Pain relief like epidural is not possible during a home birth.

In what circumstances would you advise against a woman having a home birth?
Any medical issues of course! Anyway, the doctor won’t allow a home birth if there is any medical problem. If you choose a home birth just because you heard about it or its “fashionable” would be a NONO! You have to be prepared and ready to have this strong experience.

Could you tell us the story of one of your births?
Once, I was supporting a couple in Antibes, the father didn’t want to be in the labor room as he was not comfortable with blood. I spent hours with them, massaging the mom in labor and the father was pretty relaxed as I was taking care of his wife. When it was time for the baby to come, the father looked at me, thanked me and told me that finally he was ready to stay until the end! The mother was really proud and happy about this.

From your experience, what are the main concerns of foreign mums-to-be preparing to have a baby in France?
The language is the main concern, they are scared to not be understood by the staff. Not having their family and having person to support them before, during and after the birth: being alone!

Do you work with any specific hospitals and if so can you recommend any in particular?
Im following the couples in their choices. As doulas are not recognised and there are some polemic with midwives, we are not always welcome but we are always doing our best for the parents and not interfering with the medical staff.

Do you also offer post-natal care to foreign mothers, if so what does this encompass?
Our job is also to be sure that the mother can breastfeed if she wishes to. So I can be part of this “project” as well as answering questions about bathing the child, cries, night issues, sexuality – anything to make the couple feel comfortable about their new situation!

Are there any baby groups / meeting places for new mums in your area? Can you recommend any?
This was the main reason to create my association and having a place to gather new moms to be able to make friends and share experiences as it’s common to feel lonely. I’m running a mom’s Meetup once a month for pregnant women as well. The location changes each time. We communicate by a WhatsApp group. This way the mothers can see each other and keep contact with each other.  French Riviera Moms (to be) Meetup  http://meetu.ps/c/2tmh0/sYY1C/a

How can people contact you?
My website is www.maternaitre.com and all my contact details are on there.


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