For many people, birth can make you feel various feelings, empowered, emotional, chaotic, excited, joyful, deep sadness. The birth process can involve many moving parts and don’t always go as planned. A traumatic birth affects about 1 in 4 births and can be caused by physical harm, experienced danger, helplessness, loneliness, or death. A traumatic birth can be detrimental, and new parents carry the weight long after the birth that affects their everyday lives.
Doulas can play a vital role in helping to prevent birth trauma inflicted on the parents by supporting parents emotionally, providing information and resources, being an advocate, and supporting through the birth plan, labor, and postnatal care.
Preventing Birth Trauma
With the rise in birth trauma in births, there has been a demand for trauma-informed maternity care across all practices. A doula’s role rests on supporting the parents through all stages of the birth, and being prepared can help reduce the risk of a traumatic birth.
Trauma-informed doula care centers on six important principles:
- trustworthiness and transparency
- peer support with other survivors
- collaboration and mutuality
- resilience, empowerment, voice, and choice
- social, cultural, and historical considerations
By following these principles, doulas have a baseline for providing effective care for their clients. Here are the four main ways to help support and prevent birth trauma.
To help prevent birth trauma, doulas need to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma throughout the pregnancy. Doulas should conduct screenings to help understand the clients’ history and to determine their risk factors for future trauma. Doulas should look for these risk factors such as unresolved past trauma, history of sexual trauma, anxiety or depression, pre-existing PTSD, fear of childbirth, low socioeconomic status, and more. As a doula, it’s essential to know these risk factors to help emotionally support and be ready to respond appropriately to help the client feel comfortable.
A doula can provide comfort by showing a client their consent matters. Trauma survivors so often feel like they have no power or control over their situation. Survivors of trauma need extra care, and offering consent to the parent, allowing them to make decisions that make them feel like they can trust their doula, helps them feel respected.
A doula’s constant presence during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth are some of the most powerful services a doula can offer a parent, especially one affected or at risk by trauma. A doula can help make a client feel comfortable and supported by being an advocate to help articulate parents’ needs, preferences, and priorities.
Doulas can help to support trauma survivors through a trauma-informed birth plan. A trauma-informed birth plan lays out all the possibilities and preferences of the parent and helps them avoid specific triggers like strangers in the room or vaginal exams. The primary goal of a doula with a parent who experienced trauma is to help restore power and control—creating a plan that allows them to navigate preventing trauma builds trust, and restores control and calm.
When a parent has past trauma or experiences trauma, a doula prepared with resources and information that goes beyond the scope of support of a doula is essential. Helping clients to manage trauma by a professional is ideal and adds to the care and treatment to help prevent adding on to birth trauma.
Until recently, there has been little knowledge and exposure
to help those who have experienced trauma or are at risk for trauma. A doulas job is vital in the birthing process. By increasing doulas capacity to realize and recognize the scope and consequences of the trauma, doulas can help mitigate short- and long-term parental and child health effects of trauma and interrupt intergenerational trauma passed from parent to child.
Doulas and the care they provide can have profound positive impacts on the birth experience by ensuring they are prepared for anything that the parent adds to their family.
Are you a doula or thinking about becoming a doula? Birth Beautifully Doula Mentoring can help you improve your skills as a doula and help you prepare for caring for your client? Contact us here for more information.
Christine Herrera helps people become amazing birth professionals.