Birth is a pivotal life event which can open a woman’s heart and the hearts of her family to the Gospel making an eternal difference.
Recognizing the fundamental benefit that a doula can have in the birth experience, Care Net of Central Texas has long utilized them for its clients, and this past February the center opened its own doula program.
A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). The word doula is a Greek word meaning women’s servant, the group says, and women have been serving others in childbirth for many centuries, having proven that support from another woman has a positive impact on the labor process.
The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience, the APA says.
Research demonstrates childbirth is smoother when utilizing doula services, lowering time in labor, decreasing the need for epidurals and reducing Caesarean section rates.
“State Medicaid programs should consider offering coverage for birth doulas to realize potential cost savings associated with reduced cesarean rates,” concluded a 2013 National Institutes of Health study.
LaCresha Duffey is the doula coordinator for Care Net of Central Texas. She joined the center’s staff in 2018.
Duffey is passionate about this program, having personally benefitted from doula services, then training as a doula through DONA International. Those trainings run three days and are specific to birth doulas or postpartum doulas running approximately $550 per certification.
As of February, Care Net of Central Texas switched from hiring doulas from an outside source, now utilizing BirthWorks International to train the center’s doula staff.
Currently there are eight doulas at the center. Some trained for birth doula services, others postpartum doulas or both. Birth doulas provide continuous support throughout the mother’s hospital stay. Postpartum doulas step in after birth to provide support when mom and baby go home.
“This free service includes home visits during the last few weeks of pregnancy and after birth,” according to Care Net of Central Texas’ program info. “The doula’s serve as mentors and coaches to help prepare for the amazing journey ahead.”
Ashton Griffith, the support center director of Care Net of Central Texas, describes the program’s vision.
“In order for families to feel confident and excited every step of the way, we’ve laid out achievable, attainable goals which will keep them focused and encouraged while overcoming barriers to independence and a healthy pregnancy,” Griffith said. “Making it pretty and celebrating along the way with incentives, feedback and support make the journey a joy for all of us.”
It was obvious from speaking with one of the center’s clients that this vision is working.
Karla is among the women who have benefitted from the doula program. Mother of a two-month old daughter, Karla describes the experience as incredible.
“It is like having your best friend helping you,” she said.
Karla has also benefitted from the material aid offered at the center, as well as parenting classes.
Care Net of Central Texas, like pregnancy help centers everywhere, adapted to conducting its class offerings online during the COVID pandemic, and the center’s staff utilizing Facetime and Facebook to maintain client connections.
Going into her pregnancy, Karla, already mom of a nine-year old son, was referred by a relative to Care Net of Central Texas. Both Karla and her husband have been so encouraged by the center’s staff and services, that they are going back to school.
The center’s doula offering has proved as critical as any other service during this time.
Their doula helped with getting the information and applying for classes. While their family does have support from extended family in the area, having the encouragement from Care Net of Central Texas to set goals has improved their lives now and the outlook for the future.
Karla found doula services beneficial in obtaining community services including food stamps and Medicaid for her and her son.
But most of all, Karla credits the doula with improving her emotional health.
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Home visits where the doula helps with dishes, laundry and holding the baby, especially during the isolation of the pandemic, have been encouraging. One additional benefit of doula visits has been the doula’s example of a servant’s heart which has resulted in Karla’s son helping out much more than she had anticipated.
The primary focus of the doula program, according to Care Net of Central Texas’s description, “is to provide emotional, physical and informational support for families of newborns through 12 weeks, over a period of 12 visits. From breastfeeding to practical support, the doula is there to help everyone adjust to having a new baby.”
Currently birth doulas are temporarily unable to help with labor due to hospital restrictions during the pandemic.
“The next step is being able to be there for clients in labor,” Duffey stated. “A doula brings calm into the situation.”
“For now, we can only connect clients with training videos to help them prepare for labor and delivery,” she said. “Whenever possible, we incorporate the support person who will be there in our online trainings and meetings so rather than freezing up in the situation, this person is prepared to calm and reassure the mom.”
“The doulas we have now, all have servant’s hearts,” Duffey said. “They are not in it for the paycheck. They want to make a difference. Truly they are warriors to reach ladies with barriers.”
With 10 births expected in each of the next two months, the eight doulas currently working for Care Net of Central Texas have plenty of opportunity to impact clients’ lives.
Duffey shared concern over the negative emotional impact of the COVID shutdowns, noting she would love to see the encouragement doulas provide new moms available to everyone.
Determining what services to provide at a pregnancy help center is certainly an issue that calls for prayer, as each center seeks to fulfill God’s calling upon it.
Doula training would not be the only cost to consider. A quick search of pay rates shows birth doulas are paid typically for each delivery ranging from a few hundred to as much as $2,000 per client. Postpartum doulas’ wages tend to be hourly, ranging from $35 to $65 per hour. Whether contracting outside doula services or establishing an internal doula department, centers would need to compensate doula’s according to their expertise.
Investing in effective ministry blesses clients and excites donors as evidence of lives changed pleases the Lord and brings Him glory.
Look into doula programs in your area. Partnering with an established doula program may be a first step.
If you are part of pregnancy help center staff, consider how exciting it would be to have clients view a doula from your center as a best friend.