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The Truth About Doulas (Spoiler Alert: They’re Amazing)

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Listen, I’m going to keep it real with you —- if you can afford it, you need to hire yourself a doula, especially as a BIPOC birthing person. Yes, I’m coming in strong with the opinions but trust me, there is a reason why but before we talk about all the wonderful benefits of doulas, let’s back it up and talk about some history. 

Here’s the scoop

Since the beginning of time women have been supporting women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. The doulas of our community were the aunties, grandmothers, friends, and sisters. It wasn’t until the early 1950s that things started to shift, and more births were occurring in hospitals, leaving the majority of the support to the hospital. The support in hospitals looked a lot different, and women often labored alone while their spouses waited in the waiting. Sidenote: fathers weren’t really allowed in the labor and delivery rooms until the 1970s.

In the 1980s, there was a big push for doulas due to increased cesarean sections and women wanting more support during labor. The support women were getting during this time was from the nurses and 

So what is a doula exactly? 

Most people only think of a doula as someone who helps during labor, but they can be so much more! A doula is a birth, and postpartum support person who can help you have the best possible experience before, during, and after your baby is born. They have been trained to provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother and the family. 

What does a doula do?

Birth Doulas provide four pillars of support during labor. 

Physical Support: Touch, massage, assisting with any water elements like showers or baths, dimming the lights, applying warmth or cold cloths, assisting you to the bathroom

Emotional Support: Continuous presence, encouragement, listening

Informational Support: Coaching, providing information, explaining procedures

Advocacy Support, let’s dive into this one a little deeper because this is why I believe every BIPOC birthing person should have a doula, especially if you are giving birth in a hospital setting. Navigating the intimidating and sometimes complicated healthcare system is a lot. There are so many policies, routines, and procedures that happen during prenatal visits, birth, and postpartum, and having someone with you during your journey that can guide you and can be life-saving.

The doula during labor can help ensure that your voice is amplified when you’re being ignored, misheard, or dismissed. The doula can help you understand what is happening along the way so that you can make informed decisions on what you want and don’t want. They can also support whatever decisions you make, which can be a great confidence booster. Overall a doula for a BIPOC person is like having the homegirl that will always have your back, and we all need that person in our lives!

What about a postpartum doula? 

Unlike a birth doula who provides support during actual labor, a postpartum doula provides non-medical support during the days and weeks following delivery. They provide families information and support on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing, and coping skills for new parents. They might also help with light housework, fix a meal and help incorporate an older child into this new experience. The International Childbirth Education Association describes the role as “mothering the mother.”

What doesn’t a doula do? 

Doulas don’t perform any clinical tasks or procedures like checking baby’s heartbeat or your blood pressure. They don’t give medical advice or speak on your behalf unless you give them explicit permission. You don’t have to worry about them replacing your partner or other loved ones; they are there to support the whole family. Lastly, they don’t catch babies!

Why is it important and what are the benefits?

When birth was moved from the home to the hospital, birthing people lost a lot of valuable support. Our practices in the hospital setting are primarily focused more on technology than labor support. The emotional needs are not at the center of the birthing experience, and it’s viewed as something that needs to be “managed.”

When a woman in labor has continuous support from a doula, it helps reduce their stress and anxiety. They also experience several different outcomes, such as 

  • Decreased risk in getting a c-section 
  • Increase in spontaneous vaginal birth (meaning you go into labor on your own) 
  • Decreased risks of being dissatisfied during labor 
  • Shorten labors by 41 minutes on avg. 

So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about doulas! Doulas are amazing people with an incredible wealth of knowledge and support to offer pregnant mothers and their families. If you want to know where you can find a doula check out these resources. I would also connect with you care provider to look for someone local to your city.

Black Doulas Associations

Sound Awakening Doula

Ancient Song Doula Services 

Sista Midwife (Find a Midwife or Doula)

Black Women Birthing Justice

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