The month of April is recognized as National Minority Health Month. This initiative is to educate and advance health equity across the country on behalf of all racial and ethnic minorities. April 11 through April 17 is a week recognized in the US as Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW.) Its’ significance is to center the voices of Black mother’s, Black women and stakeholders. Since turning 40 last year, I have been thinking about my age and having babies. Women 40 and over have risks when it comes to childbirth. I mentioned my concerns to my gynecologist and her response was to take excellent care of myself now so that when I become pregnant, I will be ready; both mentally and physically. As I did more research on having babies and being a Black woman, it led me to having an honest conversation with Knetta Adkins, my little sister, who is a Black birth doula. The role of a doula is to act as both a birthing companion and a resource that provides physical and emotional support for pregnant women.
When a woman is blessed to get pregnant and carry a child, they most immediately look for an obstetrician or a midwife. Doulas are a valuable part of the birthing team and are trained to help support a woman’s pregnancy, labor, and childbirth experience. A doula works for the pregnant person and their family, not the pregnant person’s chosen place for labor and birth. A doula is available for any person who wants one and they can have a positive impact during a woman’s pregnancy and early post-partum period. During our conversation, I asked Knetta a series of questions about her role as a doula.
How does one become a doula and what is in their job description?
She explained to me with such passion that doulas act as a birth advocate. They are non-clinical health care personnel who provide continuous emotional, physical, and informational support during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. A doula spends time with the pregnant woman and her family and any others who are included in her support system. This will help the doula better understand the needs and expectations for the pregnant woman’s labor. A doula’s role is not to take the place of the health care provider, but to be a companion and resource that shares guidance, facilitates communication with the health care provider, and helps ease the pregnant woman’s concerns about childbirth. A doula can also connect families to community resources, such as childbirth education classes, lactation specialists or breastfeeding support groups.
Do you need a certification to become a doula?
Knetta explained that certification is not necessary to become a doula. Getting certified can enhance your network as a doula, but it doesn’t necessarily impact your level of effectiveness as a practicing doula. Certification is not for everyone, so if you do choose to become certified, it’s important to choose a certification body that best aligns with your ideal practice as a doula. My sister has relevant and practical experience being a childbirth advocate for many years. Most of it comes natural to her and she did get certified through DONA International. She also shared the value of getting a mentor who can help provide additional guidance and support as a newer doula in practice.
What about the financial options of hiring a doula for childbirth?
Knetta said, some insurance companies offer reimbursement for doula support, but that depends on the state where you live and your provider of choice. There are insurance companies that offer doula coverage at no cost, particularly for those pregnant people who are serving in the military. If you are interested in hiring a doula, and may not be able to afford one, always ask about payment plans or sliding scale fees as you’re interviewing doulas in your area. Also, if you have a community-based doula program where you live, they often do work with pregnant women at free to low cost. Knetta is the Founder and Owner of Douwella, a doula practice based in Marietta, GA. She is currently working on getting trained in post-partum doula support. To find out more about her practice as a doula, philosophy of care, and availability, you can find her at www.douwella.com. You can also follow her on social media @douwella on Instagram and Twitter.