What is a doula?
Allison and Sam were recently interviewed by the local newspaper about High Country Doulas. We’re so excited to share the article with you. Let us know what you think about the piece!
Providing Support Through the Childbirth Experience
The experience a family goes through during pregnancy, childbirth and into the postpartum phase of parenthood can be a stressful time.
To help alleviate some of the pressures of this process, High Country Doulas aims to provide support, comfort, and education to its clients in Northwestern North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. HCD co-owner Samantha Wright explained that a doula is a person who supports families during this time by focusing on a person’s emotional health and helping families feel empowered and cared for.
A doula is different than a health care provider, midwife, obstetrician or a nurse, as doulas do not provide medical care. Rather, a doula provides support in helping answer questions families may have during pregnancy, can be present during labor for encouragement and can help with recovery after the birth. Support can be in the form of physical touch by massaging a mother’s back and hips or emotionally by talking through questions or concerns.
“I always say that having a doula is like having a best friend that you can call anytime that just knows a whole lot about birth and babies,” Wright said.
Wright and her co-owner, Allison Rollans, have a combined 25 years of doula experience. The two came together in 2016 to establish High Country Doulas — a small business that helps to connect families with local doulas. The agency is the first of its kind in the area that has assisted more than 100 families since its inception, Wright said.
Rollans said she realized the importance of the services a doula provides after her own personal experiences in having other women support her through birth. Helping her along the way to parenthood were women who were breast feeding counselors, midwives who helped answer questions and others who just provided support. She wanted to continue doing that for other women as well, Rollans said.
The agency started when Wright had a vision of making doula services easier for parents to connect with, as it could be difficult to find a doula in the area if one wasn’t sure where to look. She also wanted to ensure that families were receiving quality and professional doula services.
“I wanted to be able to provide a service that was cohesive, predictable service,” Wright said. “Any of our families who work with our doulas know what they’re going to get and get that consistent experience.”
Wright also saw this as an opportunity for employment for women who, like her, were passionate about being there for families during the transformative process of childbirth.
The agency currently has nine doulas including Wright and Rollans; three doulas who live in Boone, one doula who lives in Wilkesboro and three doulas who live in the tri-cities Tennessee area. The “team approach” HCD uses ensures families have reliable services, Wright says. If a doula is unable to perform her duties, another doula from the agency could be available for assistance.
Wright said HCD staff are trained through ProDoula. This 20-hour training educates doulas on how to support families in any decision they make without any bias.
Wright said training focuses on non-judgmental support. This means doulas are trained to support parents who do or don’t want to use an epidural, who are or are not having a cesarean birth or who plan to breast feed or bottle feed.
“As a doula, we do not bring our opinions or preferences to the table,” Wright said. “We are there to listen to the parents’ needs, desires and wants and support them 100 percent.”
During the pregnancy phase, doulas can meet families in their home to discuss birth goals, assist in developing a birth plan, aid in finding out options and alternatives for birth and can connect the parents with resources, Wright said.
“They can ask us anything, whether it’s a silly question or a really emotional question or concern,” Rollans said.
When a mom goes into labor, Wright said doulas can support them at their home before going to the hospital or can offer encouragement over the phone. The doula can also meet families at the hospital and be by their side for the entire labor experience.
“We’re by that mom’s side the entire time,” Wright said. “Having that continuous presence not leaving the room is one of the reasons moms report back feeling way more satisfied with their birth experience.”
Doulas can suggest different positions for a mom to be comfortable, massage her and help her focus on breathing during the labor. If an unexpected route takes place during labor — such as an induction or a cesarean — doulas talk the situation through with the parents and make sure they’re understanding what’s happening and feel like they’re a part of that decision-making process, Wright said.
Both Wright and Rollans voiced that doulas are not present to replace partners or other health care providers during the experience. Rollans said doulas try to help involve partners in all aspects of the journey, such as suggesting places the mother would like to be massaged or ways to emotionally support her. Wright added that HCD sees itself as a collaborative member of the health care team and maintains working relationships with nurses, midwives, obstetricians and pediatricians.
Rollans said she is passionate about continuing the support for parents postpartum, after the parents have brought the baby home. Doulas can visit families at their home to help establish a routine, help them learn to breast or bottle feed, care for the child while the parent sleeps or eats and help provide resources if needed. Checking in with parents in the postpartum phase helps to prevent postpartum depression or other post-birth mood disorders.
HCD also provides free workshops to families on topics such as what to expect in childbirth, coping strategies for labor, basics of caring for a newborn, coping with parenthood and breastfeeding. Other services the agency provides include placenta encapsulation, nutrition counseling, belly binding and sleep consulting.
For more information, visit www.highcountrydoulas.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (828) 278-8949.