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What Is World Doula Week? Hey, What Is A Doula?

What Is World Doula Week? Hey, What Is A Doula?

Posted by Jessilyn Dolan on 22nd Mar 2021

World Doula Week (WDW) is designed to empower doulas all over the world to improve the physiological, social, emotional, educational and psychological health of birthing people, newborns, and families in birth and in the postpartum period.

World Doula Week begins with World Doula Day on March 22nd and will go through March 28th annually. March 22 was chosen because it is the spring equinox, which represents the return of fertility in countless cultures.

What Is A Doula?

A doula is a trained professional who provides support for parents and their families before, during, and after labor and delivery, to help achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience.

Services and skills doulas provide:

  • Physical, educational and emotional support before during and after birthing
  • Laboring position support and suggestions for comfort such as comforting touch (massage), hydrotherapy support, warm/cool compresses, relaxation techniques, positive affirmations, visualizations, and breathwork.
  • Support for parents, partners, friends, children and family members

The combined results of 26 randomized trials studying over 15,000 people giving birth reveal numerous benefits of having continuous, one-on-one labor support.

Doulas lead to healthier mothers and babies:

  • 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
  • 28% decrease in the risk of Cesarean
  • 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
  • 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
  • 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
  • 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

I have been both a labor and postpartum doula for two decades, since before the word doula was known, let alone cool. I always chose to work with vulnerable populations, whether single parents, parents in substance use recovery, or with financial constraints. Typically doulas charge a not-so-small fee for their support services, ensuring that families who can afford the support have access.

The going rate for Vermont is well over $1000, with NYC rates being as high as $2500-4000 per birth. This often means families who need it most, and who do not have the money to hire a doula, are not able to access these services.

I became a labor doula trainer to help bridge that gap. I also wanted to train more doulas, so more doulas could provide free or discount services to those most in need of support, so I started the University of Vermont Volunteer labor doula program to help do just that.

Through one of my former nurse management roles, I was able to ensure all Vermont incarcerated inmates had access to a doula and breastpump if they wanted, or were released to my facility to be able to stay with the newborn as long as possible.

I have been honored to be in the room, holding hands, and even at times, forehead to forehead while families have started, grown, and evolved.

For many years, though, I felt I needed to separate my birth world from my work in cannabis. There was so much stigma, bias, myth, and misunderstanding around cannabis, that it took a while to push past my own thinking and welcome combining my birth and cannabis knowledge and experience to help others do the same.

The beauty of combining the two is that both cannabis and birth bring together so many walks of life. They’re each, in their own way, a reminder that our world moves in full circles, from birth to death, and all the glory in between

Fortunately, I’m now able to tie my birth work directly into my cannabis work. For example, I’m a cultivating caregiver for another nurse in cancer remission, and was able to support her and her family as her daughter delivered another grandson - in the caul, by the way!

I am also proud to partner with a doula I trained several years back when I started the University of Vermont Volunteer labor doula program. Greer Sergeant is an amazing young doula helping to bring awareness and inclusivity to the Vermont birthing community. Greer loves NurseGrown Organics CBD for her own medicinal needs and is an advocate for clean cannabis!

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