If you've made it to our website, you are probably familiar with the term 'doula' and all the benefits a doula's support can provide a pregnant person. For those of you just joining the growing doula movement, here is a quick run down of the doula role and the impact a doula can have on a pregnant person's experiences.
The word doula is an ancient Greek term that translates into “caregiver” or "woman of service" and has been used over the past several decades to describe a woman who provides various non-medical support measures such as emotional support, pain management and relaxation techniques, and information to pregnant people. Support can consist of anything from recommending books about pregnancy to helping make a birth plan to offering a hand to hold or giving a massage during labor or an abortion procedure. Having a doula can provide pregnant people with the tools to self-advocate in a medical setting and ensure that their experiences are honored and that they are safe. In addition, doulas are there to help validate the women's experiences and choices surrounding their pregnancy outcomes, on their terms.
Doulas offer continuous encouragement and reassurance to their clients and have traditionally worked with pregnant people who plan to give birth. In recent years, however, some doulas and reproductive health and justice activists have expanded the term to include women across the entire spectrum of pregnancy, including birth, abortion, and fetal loss. The Doula Project works across this spectrum and serves pregnant people in the following ways:
Birth: A Birth Doula provides all of the above throughout a pregnant person's labor and delivery, as well as the immediate post-partum period, about two hours after the baby has been born. Additionally, a birth doula provides guidance in the creation of a birth plan and prenatal and post-partum visits. Birth doulas generally have an on-call period of about 3 weeks based on their client's due date.
Abortion: An Abortion Doula provides all of the above to pregnant people who are choosing to terminate their pregnancies or have miscarried or experienced fetal loss. Doulas stay with their clients throughout their procedures, as well as part of the recovery period, and remain in touch with their clients as they desire thereafter.
The doulas who volunteer with The Doula Project work to add essential components to health care that tend to be missing: community, access, and self-determination. We work within already established medical institutions and attempt to implement a model of care that puts the pregnant person at the center of her experience.
We believe that you can create community within a medical setting and context, between the pregnant person and her health care provider. Doulas help facilitate community because we engage on a non-medical, patient-centered level that elicits trust from our clients, and because we work in settings where we have established and trusting relationships with health care providers. Another piece we bring to not only the medical field, but the doula model of care itself, is access. We think that every pregnant person should have a doula if she desires, and we provide free doula services to women who request it in New York City. We also work to increase access to doula care around the country by providing trainings and technical support to communities interested in doula services across the spectrum of pregnancy. Finally, the doulas in our project help give our clients control over her experiences in medical institutions by listening and responding to her needs, helping her communicate with her health care provider and self-advocate, providing tools to help her better understand her pregnancy, abortion, and/or birth, and by reducing fear and anxiety through physical comfort measures.