**What is a Doula **
by Innocence Smith, CBD
A doula is a trained companion who is not a healthcare professional and who supports another individual through significant health-related experiences including pregnancy, postpartum, abortions, or non-reproductive experiences such as dying. All doulas are trained and educated to provide emotional and physical support to their communities. Not all doulas are certified but all certified doulas will have completed training approved by a comparable professional body and have experience as pregnancy/childbirth coaches. These birth art specialists provide targeted, in-person and virtual doula support to individuals and families anywhere in the world. Many doulas are independent and self employed professionals that work for you, not for your caregiver or the hospital.
Doulas Can Offer:
Emotional support to patients before, during, and after procedures
Pain management techniques
Relaxation and breathing techniques
A soothing presence
Information about the procedure
A calm, knowledgeable guide
Doulas are not typically healthcare professionals and most do not provide medical care, but they can also provide emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental support to the client's and the client's partner, family, and friends. Some doulas provide support for fertility, birth, induced abortions, miscarriage and stillbirth, live births and subsequent (rainbow) births. Other doulas may limit the structure of their support services to abortion, birth, bereavement or postpartum services in the United States. Such doulas are generally known as Full Spectrum Doulas. Some doulas are also full spectrum doulas that specialize as abortion, birth, bereavement, fertility, sexuality, and postpartum support professionals. A full spectrum Afrocentric doula makes sure you have options, feel supported, and respected in your decisions, receive the information you need when things get tough.
Afrocentric AKA Afro-Spiritual Doulas
Like other doulas, a Afrocentric AKA Afro-Spiritual Doula is a trained companion who supports another individual through significant health-related experiences, such as childbirth, miscarriage, induced abortion, infertility, or stillbirth, or non-reproductive experiences such as sexual trauma, mastectomy, and death. An Afro-spiritual doula will work to help you harmonize your body, mind, and spirit. In addition to supporting reproductive and birth justice for Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC), many Afrocentric doulas offer a number of childbirth classes, workshops, drop-in circles, and other similar events to help you get the information and support you need to navigate your family's journey smoothly and comfortably. We support clients and families with planning and preparation, coaching and mentorship, advocacy, and ongoing access to other tools and resources.
The uncomfortable truth in the United States is that womb-embodied BIPOC are especially and far too often not heard or taken seriously by the Western medical or health care system, and therefore they are often denied the dignity that they deserve. Afrocentric doulas are necessary during these times because womb-embodied BIPOC are 4 times more likely to die in childbirth than their White counterparts. With the support of a doula, all women were less likely to have pain-relief medications administered and less likely to have a cesarean birth. Women also reported having a more positive childbirth experience overall. Recent studies show that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40%, and requests for an epidural by 60%.
What Makes Afrocentric Doulas Different
Afrocentric doulas often use metaphysical tools in their practice such as art, aromatherapy, prayer, music, dance, painting, journaling, divination, breathwork, guided imagery, hypnosis, guided meditation, homeopathy, herbs, crystals, minerals, wood, stone, water, and other organic materials to help you create safe space of healing and power. Other spiritual doulas incorporate other elements of nature with indigenous practices to support you in your decision to use plant medicines to have a “natural” healing experience. We support education on womb-centered love and support in all lifestyle choices, birth journeys and life experiences regardless of age, personal beliefs, sex, gender, socio-economic status, religious preferences, creed, nationality. Afrocentric doulas generally work to empower Black and Indigenous women of color to prioritize health, wellness, personal growth, and radical self-care. We make sure that our clients have informed options to feel supported and respected in your decisions, and receive the information you need when things get tough. Afrocentric doulas are most often dedicated to the facilitation of Afro-spiritually centered or indigenous-focused support services from fertility to death. Like all other doulas, Afrocentric doulas provide non-emergency and non-medical therapeutic support services.
Doula What’s Best for You
The main job of a successful Afrocentric birth doula is to be by your side offering non-medical, Afro-spiritual or Afro-Indigenous techniques before, during, and after labor, such as breathing, massage, and helping you move into different body positions. A good Afrocentric birth doula will work to support your birthing choice wether you intend to have pain meds or an unmedicated birth experience, or whether you have a planned or emergency cesarean. No matter what type of situation you have, a great Afrocentric doula will be there to help you feel safe and empowered. Likewise, no matter their speciality, a great doula is involved and present throughout your life journey be it fertility, sexual energy healing, energy healing, birth, abortion, or bereavement. Choose your doula wisely. Due in large part to the changing medical climate, many doulas have moved to incorporating virtual and traveling support services into their business model. This makes it super easy to find a great doula that may be outside of your physical geographical location. Most doulas will offer you a free or low cost consultation so that you can have an opportunity to interview one another and to determine if you are a good fit to work with one another. You can locate doulas through a simple internet search, ask friends for recommendations, join doula support groups on social media platformss, or ask your birth team for recommendations.