Friday, October 19, 2018

All About: Antepartum Doulas

The term "doula" refers to a birth or life-stage professional who provides four key things to their clients: physical support, emotional support, informational support, and advocacy support.  There are many types of doulas.  Over the next several weeks, I will be talking about the types of doulas specific to pregnancy, labor & delivery, postpartum, and pregnancy loss.  Each week I will focus on a specific type of doula, her role, and the benefits she provides to her clients.

Antepartum Doulas: What They Are

A pregnant woman in a white tank top sits on the edge of her bed, holding her hand up to her head with a tired and concerned expression.  Her other hand rests on her pregnant belly.
Antepartum means "before birth" and as such antepartum doulas have specific training to care for clients during their pregnancies.  This type of doula specifically aids women with high risk pregnancies who may have been put on bed rest, have a severe medical condition that impacts her pregnancy, be a teen or single mother, be an at-risk mother, be a rape survivor, or have some other risk factor that may impact their pregnancy.  

What They Do

Emotional Support
Perhaps the most important role of the antepartum doula is to provide her client with empathy, reassurance, and a sympathetic ear.  Antepartum doulas have special training and experiences that allow them to empathize with mothers in these unique situations and can provide a much needed and impartial ear for women who are going through less than perfect pregnancies.  There is a lot of guilt associated with "not enjoying" being pregnant - an antepartum doula accepts and respects this as part of the variations of normal when dealing with a pregnancy that may be unwanted, cause the mother extreme physical distress, or that may be the product of rape and she can help the mother as she navigates her way emotionally through her pregnancy.

Physical Support
Many high-risk pregnancies require a lot of extra physical support.  For example if the mother is on bed-rest she may need someone to prepare meals, do light house work, take her to and from appointments, or perhaps watch older children.  Whatever the need, the doula is there to make sure the mother is well-supported physically during her pregnancy. 

Informational Support
Moms with health concerns for themselves or their babies tend to have a lot of questions, or may be unaware of their options for care.  Their antepartum doula is there to help fill in the gaps that may be missed during her appointments with care providers or who can offer unbiased information about the pros and cons of different treatments or interventions the mother may be considering.  The doula may also have information specific to the issue her client faces, providing insights or tips for the mother to discuss with her care provider that may help make her more comfortable or manage her pregnancy symptoms better. 

How To Find An Antepartum Doula

Finding an antepartum doula can sometimes be a little bit of a challenge.  Since antepartum care is not as wide-spread or well-known as other the types of doula specialties there are not as many resources available to search from, especially in smaller or rural areas.  The best place to start is probably an internet search, followed by asking for references from local high-risk pregnancy groups you can find either through your care provider or online.  Keep in mind that many birth or postpartum doulas may offer antepartum services, so if you are stuck or having a hard time finding someone in your area it is worth sending a few inquiries to doulas asking if they may provide antepartum services.  Lastly local area birthworkers like Certified Practicing Midwives, Certified Nurse Midwives, midwife assistants, and doulas can also be a great referral resource for expecting mothers and their families.  

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