By Lei Wu, JCADA Clinical Intern
Cathy, a first-time mom, told her therapist that she “began to feel really nervous” about things that might happen in childbirth. She was recently separated from her abusive partner and had a lot of anxiety about the final month of her pregnancy. A few weeks later, at her first session after the birth of her son, Cathy’s therapist was surprised at the change in her confidence and enthusiasm. With the help of a professional doula, Cathy nerves were alleviated before and after delivery. The doula, Laura, visited her at her home a few times before the labor. She met Cathy at the hospital for her delivery and stayed with her for two hours postpartum. Laura taught Cathy to have the baby skin-to-skin on her chest right after birth and let the baby self-attach to her breast. Cathy noted that “[She] could never have gone through that labor without her.”1
A doula is a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical and emotional support to a mother and/or her partner.2 In many countries, it is traditional for a female companion to remain with a woman throughout labor. With the development of the natural childbirth movement, professional doulas have been increasingly appreciated as members of the labor and delivery team in the hospital setting.
It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will be abused during pregnancy, but only 4 to 8 percent of pregnant women have reported suffering abuse.6 Though pregnancy is a cause for excitement and elation, it also causes stress in relationships and triggers domestic abuse. Studies have shown that domestic abuse during pregnancy and afterbirth have negative effects on the mother, fetus and newborn, giving rise to maternal mortality and morbidity, miscarriage, low birth weight, fetal injury and other risks.7
At JCADA, clinicians see clients throughout all life stages, including pregnancy. These clients often lack the resources other mothers have, despite needing extra assistance, as they are either without a partner or coping with an abusive partner. It is our mission to support victims of domestic abuse to become empowered and obtain safe living environments. A client who is pregnant has an extra need for experienced support and would greatly benefit from working with a doula.
As a part of our holistic approach to serving our clients, JCADA hopes to offer our pregnant clients referrals for doulas in the Greater Washington area. If you have any information on doulas willing to charge a reduced rate for women experiencing abuse, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 “Benefits of a doula present at the birth of a child." American Academy of Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/114/Supplement_6/1488
2 Meyer, Bruce A., Arnold, Jane A., and Pascali-Bonaro, Debra. "Social support by doulas during labor and the early postpartum period." Hospital Physician. September 2001. http://turner-white.com/pdf/hp_sep01_doulas.pdf
3 “Benefits of a doula present at the birth of a child."
4 "FOCAL POINT ON LABOR SUPPORT: Attachment and Bonding; The Doula's Role." International Journal of Childbirth Education. December 1998. https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-592414151.html5 Ibid.
6 Drouin, Rachelle. "Domestic Violence in Pregnancy." Women's Web. http://www.publicrelationspro.ca/samples/Articles/dv_pregnancy.pdf