Why do pregnant women with health conditions need a Doula?
As a doula with 8 years of experience I would say that the vast majority of the moms I work with have fairly unremarkable pregnancies.
Most suffer with some symptoms common in pregnancy such as nausea, sickness, tiredness, aches and pains, but there are many women who suffer with symptoms related to an ongoing chronic illness and those who develop medical conditions during their pregnancies. I have also known women who have actually reversed pre-existing medical conditions, pregnancy can have a strange effect on a mom’s body!
The good thing about making a connection with a doula early on in your pregnancy is that you can form some kind of bond/friendship which gives a doula a much better understanding of the mom..
If this happens then I think it is likely that a doula may be able to recognise if something is not quite right with a mom in terms of her health. A Mom may confide any worries to her doula if she does not feel comfortable doing this with her OB-GYN, since she might feel embarrassed to mention some concerns to her doctor, so a doula is a good place to start, a doula will have perhaps experienced similar scenarios and would always advise a mom to take professional advice in the right time.
I have experienced this behaviour with several moms and have persuaded them to chat to their doctor about their concerns which led to them having the correct course of treatment.
Diabetes, as an example, whether it be pre-existing or gestational is something that effects a lot of moms. I often find it useful to sit and talk to moms about their diet and pointing them in the direction of good exercise classes and indeed dieticians on occasion.
Many medical conditions can be greatly affected by diet and exercise and this is especially important during pregnancy. I have a great network of yoga/pilates/fitness instructors who are trained specifically to help pregnant women and I always urge moms to take full use of these.
When I am hired by a family as a doula, I continue to support them beyond birth, sometimes for years after! Having shared the amazing experience of birth often an amazing bond is made, and I find that a lot of moms contact me about any health worries for weeks and months after baby has been born.
I offer regular visits to the family in the weeks following birth and sometimes I become aware of a medical condition that I believe needs further investigation and advise the mom to get checked out.
A doula isn’t trained to deal with any medical issues, but I believe she can act as a safety net, sometimes spotting something that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Very crucially a doula can often spot signs of post-natal depression which is a medical condition that can respond very well if dealt with. Often a mom can just put down her low mood to hormones, tiredness etc. But I am now quite good at spotting a mom who I think may need extra support.
Again, because of the bond we have formed, mom usually feels comfortable talking to me openly about the way she is feeling, which is a great thing! I have even had dads contacting
me to say they were concerned about their partner’s health (physical or mental). Dads can feel very powerless at this time and a third party outside of the family can sometimes be the one person that mom feels comfortable opening up to.
Whether a mom experiences some medical problems, before, during or after their baby’s birth a doula really can be an invaluable extra member to add to your team. Someone who may be able to see things from a different perspective and offer advice that you may not even have considered.