Tomorrow is World Doula Day, which starts off World Doula Week (WDW). WDW is a time when we get to celebrate the awesomeness that is “doulaing”. The work of doulas is still something of a foreign concept to many people, regardless of the many leaps and bounds have been made by this industry of work.
The most commonly known type of doula is the Birth Doula, and although Birth Doulas often support different types of situations, there are other, more specialized, types of doulas. !
What Does "Doula" Even Mean?
The term “doula” is derived the term from modern Greek (δούλα, doúla) meaning “servant-woman” or “woman who serves”. Medical anthropologist Dana Raphael first applied the word in 1976 to describe an experienced woman who assisted another with breastfeeding after giving birth. The term has now grown to encompass those serving women in all things related to childbirth and then some.
So let’s explore some of the different types of doulas…
Also called Antepartum or Prenatal Doulas. As per Wikipedia an Antenatal Doula provides help and support to a mother who has been put on bed rest or is experiencing a high risk-pregnancy. However Antenatal support is not limited to those on bed rest.
An Antenatal Doula provides support to anyone who is pregnant or expecting a baby. Care can involve things like attending appoints, explaining or preparing for procedures and tests, practical in home support, preparing parents for adoptions, and much more.
The most commonly known type of doula; also known as a birth companion or birth supporter. The Birth Doula is a trained non-medical person who assists a person before, during, or after childbirth. Birth Doulas support birthing individuals and their families by providing informational, emotional and physical/practical support – each doula sets out her own way of working so support can differ from one provider to another.
Postpartum Doulas (or Postnatal Doulas) provide help and support to families in in the first weeks after becoming parents with infant and household care. They provide informational, emotional and practical support to families. The support provided by a Postpartum Doula is specialized as per each family’s needs and depends on the doula (some doulas are willing to provide different types of support than others). Although the postpartum period is generally limited to the first 40 days (or 6 weeks) after the birth of the baby, many Postpartum Doulas continue support weeks or months longer than that.
Family Care Doulas
Family Care Doulas provide support to families past the postpartum period. The care they provide can vary greatly depending on the family’s unique needs; however the Family Care Doula will provide informational, emotional and practical support to a family – the specifics of which are dependent on the needs of the family and the services provided by the doula.
An Abortion Doula provides emotional, physical, and informational support to people choosing abortion. The Doula Project is a “New York City initiative to support people facing miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal anomaly.” If you have hired an abortion doula privately the care provided can involve transportation to and from the hospital/clinic and staying with the individual in their home throughout the experience.
These doulas provides support to families experiencing pregnancy loss. A Bereavement Doula provides continuous one-on-one individualized support throughout appointments, during the birth, and supporting the family afterwards. They provide support by holding space for the grieving family, walking the family through their journey, providing them with the resources they need, and providing follow-up support as long as the family needs (and so much more).
End of Life Doulas
Also know as Death Doulas/Death Midwives, they offer support to individuals and family members, physically and spiritually, throughout the process of dying. Some of the services that can be provided include counselling sessions, forgiveness rituals and at-home funerals. These ceremonies (like drumming circles, chants and rituals) are meant to bring comfort to the dying person and those around them. Check our this article to find out more.
The International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) states on their website that their aim is “bringing deeper meaning and greater comfort to the dying [and] enriching hospice end of life care”.
As, World Doula Week is upon us I hope we remember to celebrate all the different types of doula support that are available. Doulaing is so much more than being present at a birth - it is about supporting families and being "in it" with them. Hopefully the work of doulas will become mainstream in the coming years.
Did you learn something? Did I miss a type of doulaing? Let me know!
So, last week I wrote about Chrissy Teigen’s essay in Glamour about her struggles with Postpartum Depression (PPD). Up to 80% of postpartum parents suffer for a Postpartum Mood Disorder (PMD), yet we generally feel extremely uncomfortable when discussing and dealing with these issues.
Many of us have suffered through PPD or other mental health struggles and it can be excruciatingly painful; but it is also hard for those who are in our lives and trying to support us. So, below are my top 5 tips for helping support someone with PPD (or any other mental health issues really).
3. Listen To Them & Watch Your Words
Take time to listen to them, no matter what they have to say that day. Use active listening skills to show that you are 100% invested in listening and supporting them – not just sharing your own opinions and listening to the sound of your own voice.
Even on the best of days our words can hurt others against our best intentions; but when we are suffering from a mood disorder we can be hypersensitive and interpret words more harshly than intended. Here are some articles on things to say and things not to say to a parent suffering from postpartum depression. Take time to applaud their accomplishments – sometimes taking a shower is a big win for the day – however beware not to do so in a way that can come of a patronizing or condescending.
4. Provide In-Person Support
Phone calls and texting are amazing tools of communication, but having someone help you in person is essential to feeling loved and supported. Providing support for someone with PPD is priceless. Helping with things like food/meal prep, household duties, and childcare cane really help a new parent feel like they can invest their energy into other things, like self-care and getting enough rest.
5. Ask, Don't Assume
The best thing you can do when trying to help someone is ask them what would be helpful, don’t just assume what you think is helpful. You might like being present but maybe they need some space; you might take the kids for them, but they might want company and someone to just be there. Asking a new parent what would benefit them most allows you support them in the way that would suit them best – not what would suit you best.
So, that's it, my 5 tips for supporting someone with a PMD - or any other mental health issues. Hopefully you find this helpful in your daily life. Can you think of anything else I might have missed? Let me know!
Never in my life did I think I would spend so much time reading about Chrissy Teigen, let alone that I would love her so much! In case you haven’t seen it yet, Chrissy Teigen’s essay in Glamour about her postpartum depression has been all over the news this week – and I couldn’t be happier. As someone who has struggled with depression on-and-off as long as I could remember, any time a celebrity opens up about their struggles I go little wide eyed with joy.
Chrissy’s frank and open article about how her life changed after the birth of her beautiful baby girl Luna makes me so happy; I encourage you to read it! The stigma surrounding mental health issues is palpable, and I am so proud that strong women, like Chrissy Teigen, are helping to lower the shame and bring attention to these mental health issues.
Why is Chrissy's story so important?
Chrissy’s expression of her continued struggle with postpartum depression is so important for two reasons; the first being that we need to demonstrate that mental health issues, like depression, don’t discriminate, and because we need to raise awareness to something that effects so many people!
When people like Chrissy, whom we presume to live an extremely charmed life, experiences issues like Postpartum Depression, we are reminded that it is a much deeper issue than how much money you have. Even those with all the support in the world can still experience depression. We are reminded that regardless of our past or current circumstances, mental health problems are something that any us are capable of having – and moreover it isn’t something that you can tell by looking at someone.
Secondly we need people like Chrissy to speak out about their issues, like depression, because it is something that is still viewed with stigma. Those with PPD often feel ashamed and guilty because they a beautiful baby waiting to be loved and they are struggling to connect. As a society we need to destigmatize these mental health disorders and the best way to do that is by talking about them!
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is the most commonly discussed form of a Postpartum Mood Disorder (PMD) these days. However, PMDs cover disorders such as the Baby Blues (most common), Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum OCD, and Postpartum Psychosis (the most extreme of the disorders). It is estimated that 80% of moms are effected by a PMD.
Approximately 15% of moms are affected by PPD, but these statistics are based on self-reported cases – meaning that many cases go unreported and untreated. Considering that PPD is the most common complication after childbirth, we are severely lacking in adequate support. Postpartum Progress is an excellent website filled with information in regards to the different PMDs and with lists for different supports and treatment options for those suffering from PMDs and those who care for someone with a PMD.
Time to Share
One of the best ways we can support those with a PMD is by sharing our stories and our struggles. In doing so we let others know that they are not alone, they don’t need to suffer in silence. The sharing of stories also helps to normalize this condition. The more we talk about it, the less stigma and shame there will be surrounding these feeling and diagnoses.
So, I am so ecstatic that Chrissy shared he story, not only with those she loves, but with the world. Through her sharing I know she has reached many women and has been able to comfort them by giving them the knowledge that they are not alone and that having a PMD doesn’t make them any less of an awesome, rockstar mom!
Today we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD); a day dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Although there are thousands – even millions – of women all over the globe worthy of recognition and praise I would like to bring a little attention the number one woman who has impacted my life for as many years as I can remember: my mom!
Before we get into too much discussion about my mom, let’s talk a bit about IWD 2017. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange, it encourages individuals, groups and communities to take action towards building a better world for women and girls all over the globe. My #BeBoldForChange for 2017 centres around supporting women’s advancement by supporting business owned and/or operated by women. Go to their website to pick out what your #BeBoldForChange action is going to be!
Canada’s theme for IWD 2017 is "Equality Matters"; seeking to recognize women’s achievements while acknowledging the challenges that women continue to face in the quest gender equality. If you want to check out the IWD page you can learn about events happening in your area and the Government of Canada page to get the facts so you can help bust some myths about gender inequality in Canada (because although we think we are doing a pretty good job here in the great white north, there is still a lot of work to be done).
Now to the main event: my mom! The woman who, at the young age of 26, took on three hyperactive, non-English speaking kids – one of which ate dirt and two who spent most of their time running around naked (I’m going to try and let you guess which kid was which). There were endless fights, tears, and a cake for every occasion.
Now I know this probably sounds more than a little bit cheesy, but it’s true. My mom has been one the biggest influences in my life; and as a woman who ran a business while raising four kids, I want to give her props for that!
Although no one will be giving her an award, I think she definitely deserves one for putting up with us for all these years! My mom has been the rock that has kept our family together through some freaking crazy-hard times. She ran a business, raised us kids, and dealt with more than one tragedy along the way; and managed to do it all with patience and grace.
So let’s celebrate the women of the world: the stay at home moms, the business women, the working moms, all of them! Women have come a long way, yet there is still more work to be done!
Is there a woman in your life that deserve a little love and acknowledgement today?
It seems these days that everyone has an opinion and, unfortunately, they also feel entitled to share it with the world. Never does it feel more prevalent than when you are pregnant. Form lovely people telling you what you should or should not be doing, to strangers asking to touch your belly (or worse, touching you without even asking), being pregnant and parenting is rife with unsolicited advice and opinions.
Your choice of breast or bottle feeding seems to be one of the greatest ways to garner unwanted comments and instructions from random passersby. It seems the only way to avoid comments, stares or outright public scoldings is to never let anyone see you feeding your child – I guess you just have to pretend your baby is a superhuman who doesn't need physical sustenance...?
This Romper article explores ways in which society shames women for breastfeeding. From telling women that they shouldn’t feed in public, insisting that they should cover up when they do, or shaming parents who choose to breastfeed their children past a set number of months; there are lots of ways in which society discourages women from nursing.
The sexualization of the female body has veered our society to a place where strangers feel “uncomfortable” seeing a nursing mother and feel it is their right to condemn her for attempting to fulfill her babies needs whenever they should happen. Why is it that we live in a society where if you don’t want to watch someone breastfeeding the natural reaction isn’t to just turn your head or keep walking? I’m honestly baffled by this. Although breastfeeding is natural is can be very difficult for many mothers and the societal shaming of it needs to be something of the past.
Well, we all know that someone can receive comments and stares for whipping out a boob for a hungry baby; but it doesn’t stop there. On the other side of the spectrum there are those who condemn parents for choosing to bottle feed their child instead of giving them the sweet, sweet “liquid gold”. Although some give formula against their will, others freely choose to do so for various different, yet equally valid, reasons.
A recent CBC article explores how some feel bullied by those who would be identified as “lactivists”. Some bottle feed because they can’t breastfeed or have low milk supply, and some because they don’t want to. Either way it is not our place to judge, and it is especially not our place to bombard them with our personal opinions.
So, let’s stop the shaming – because parenting is hard! Sometimes just getting out of the house is a lot of work! Having people, especially strangers, dictate to you what you should be doing doesn’t help anyone. Regardless of your personal opinions, all parents are doing their best for their children; for some it means breastfeeding for others it means bottle feeding. The best thing we can do for each other is stop the judgement and stop the shaming.
We all want our babies to grow up happy, healthy and strong; we need to support each other. We are all stronger together.
Have you experienced this public shaming of your baby feeding method? Let me know (comment below), I love a good story!
“So, that’s like a midwife, right?” is the most common response I receive when I tell people that I am a Doula. I would often stumble on my words trying to explain that doulas do provide emotional and physical support, like a midwife, but they don’t deliver babies. This exact situation is why I had to learn to pull together my elevator pitch, to try and communicate to people everything that a doula can be, in a very short period of time.
Your Doula the Personal Trainer
We can all go to the gym and work out, and it will probably do us some good. Over time we will see improvements, maybe in weight loss or muscle build up or increased cardiovascular health. However if you hire a personal trainer you are bringing in someone who has the education, experience and encouragement to help you achieve your goals faster and better. Your personal trainer helps you plan diet and exercise and is there pushing you along the way.
Doulas work in much the same way. We are there with you planning for your birth and postpartum experience; we bring a lot of information and knowledge to the table. Then we are there with you during your labour and birth experience; we encourage you, we give you ideas on how to labour better and we get our hands in the mix by providing physical support. Whether it’s giving you some water and a massage like a boxing coach, or going with you up and down the stairs like a running coach, your doula is there full of the information and encouragement you need to help you reach your goals.
Your Doula the Life Coach
As a doula, you can spend a lot of time with a particular family, and you get to know the clients quite well and build an amazing relationship of trust. This allows our clients to find in us a safe place to talk and discuss their problems. Much of this time is spent listening to our clients. As a mom-to-be or new-mom the world can be very isolating and overwhelming. Doulas are there to listen and help you identify what your challenges and obstacles might be, and then help you come up with an action plan and connections to resources that will help you achieve the life you want.
From struggling with birth anxiety, suffering from postpartum depression, marital issues, or worries about returning to work and weaning baby; doulas are there to listen and support clients through all the different scenarios and issues life has to throw at them. Doulas are excellent resources and can connect clients to the community and professional resources they need. There is nothing that is outside of our realm when a client is in need (even if you have to Google it!).
Doulas Offer a Wide Range of Support
What I want people to see is that a doula is so much more than just someone who is there to help yell “push” while the mother is giving birth. The doula is skilled in providing such a variety of support (informational, educational, physical, emotional) that it really needs to be recognized by society on a mass scale.
So this is how my current elevator pitch came about, check it out below!
“I’m a doula; I’m like a personal trainer and life coach for all things pregnancy and parenting. I help them plan for their birth and postpartum experience; I physically support them through the birth, and I provide support to the family after the birth. I’m also there to help with any emotional and relationship needs that the family are facing.”
It’s not perfect, but it’s a start, right?!
So, does this make you think a doula is more than just a midwife who can’t deliver babies?
I'm a doula and nurse who is passionate about creating happy and healthy moms, babies and families. Currently living in Guelph, Ontario while breaking into the world of business and enjoying the four beautiful (and often very crazy) boys in my life.