“I want a doula to advocate for me in the hospital” is one of the first things most of our prospective clients say when we ask them why they want a doula. So how does a birth doula advocate?
Birth doulas offer physical, emotional and informational support. We think advocacy is an aspect of the informational and emotional support we provide. The word “advocate” has some nuanced meanings and even if we define it the same way, doulas may advocate differently. At South Bay Birth Services, our overarching goal of supporting families in a way that promotes personal autonomy and empowerment, informs how we advocate for our clients – and how we don’t.
We assist with planning and goals regarding birth preferences and help parents make informed choices (before, during and immediately after labor and delivery) based on what they value. This means we provide information about various topics and we help you clarify your priorities and your values, so you can make choices that you feel good about. [We don’t tell you what birth preferences you should have, based on our interpretation of the research.]
We facilitate effective communication between families and their healthcare team. Prenatally, we encourage you to ask questions of your provider ahead of time, to share your preferences and identify any areas where you may want clarification. At the hospital, this means we ask if you have questions, if you understand what your healthcare provider is recommending, or if you would like some time to discuss things privately. Oftentimes families want to ask about alternatives or if they could take more time before moving forward with a medical intervention, but without their doula facilitating that communication it might not happen. Most of the time, just “pushing the pause button” and encouraging a little more conversation helps our clients feel more informed and in control of their experience. [We don’t give medical advice or give our personal opinion about what you should do when facing medical interventions]
We watch out for your interests. This means our allegiance is to you- period. We may ask you/your partner or your healthcare provider questions to identify various ways to best support your goals. We may ask a question/bring attention if we ever were to see something covert that was going against your stated goals or patient rights. Our responsibility is to you and our aim is for you to be able to relax knowing that someone is looking out for your interests. [We do not presume to advocate for anything unless we know it’s important to you]
We publicly support your decisions. This means we will always support any informed choices that you make. We will never judge you. We will always back you up and we will amplify your voice, if needed. Meaning we may repeat, restate, plead your cause, or otherwise make your voice louder. [We do not presume what your decisions will be]
At South Bay Birth Services, we work hard to stay current on evidence-based research and information relating to birth, as well as local resources. We also work hard to maintain personal neutrality around specific options and choices that are available to birthing people, because different options and interventions will be the right choice for different people at different times. You can rest assured that you will have a strong advocate in your corner and that our advocacy is guided by our goals to provide information, facilitate communication, watch out for your interests and publicly support your decisions.