Do Doulas Advocate For Parents?
I have parents tell me that they want to hire me to stand up for them in the hospital. While I am glad that they are looking for good support, I am sad that our society does not teach this skill very well. I can stand up for them and protect them, but I would rather that the parents had the skill set because they will need it for the rest of their life. So, in my prenatal classes I make sure that I practice this skill with the parents.
Doulas are a great resource and full of information to help their client. I commonly hear doulas voice that they are confused on how to know if they are standing up for their client or taking over control to protect them. Are they in scope? I think the real question is "How do you empower parents instead of protect them?"
I recently took a class from Jesse Hawkins at the Franklin Institute of Wellness and loved what she taught. She told us to watch what you say verbally or share on social media. “This essential oil will get rid of your nausea.” vs. “Here are some products to consider: orange essential oil, Sprite, nausea pops..” The phrasing of it is so important.
Another thing she suggested is to ask yourself, "Who is in control of the client’s decisions?" Relinquish control, and instead educate to empower them. Don’t diagnose, treat, prescribe, or try to save them. "Am I making a claim? Do I have research to support it?" What is the client’s take away and perception? Help them engage in collaborative care and teach them how to do it. I use B.R.A.N.D: Benefits/ Risks/ Alternatives/ Now, Not Now, Never/ Decision and teach this concept in a prenatal visit. This helps the parents gain information so that they can make a decision. Doulas don’t take charge of their client’s health. They empower, educate, and support.
Doulas support through a decision the parents have made even when they don’t agree with it. That is the beauty of a doula. They are on the parent's side no matter what she personally believes. She believes in them and leaves the power to choose in the hands of the parents. Another way that doulas empower people is by knowing when they are not the best fit for a client. She can empower the parents by saying, “I am not the best person to work with you. _____ and _____ will be better support. Here is their contact number.” For her to do that means that the doula cares more for her client's well being than she does about making money. Plus, she did not leave them hopeless, she gave them some clear options. Many times this action will lead to referrals because the client knows you cared.
Another idea Jesse shared is the 5 Pillar Method. It helps to establish scientific methods to ensure that the client is supported and retains complete control of her health decisions. She has a totally separate class on that. Email her to find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are tips on sharing information as a doula:
Provide education and empower. Therefore, you can talk about everything as long as you don’t take control and tell the client what to do directly or implied. Let go of control! You are not responsible for her choices nor the outcome of her birth or postpartum time. Remember to educate and empower rather than diagnosing, treating, and prescribing.
Provide Primary Sources
If their care provider diagnoses them first and then you are asked to help, that is different. Discuss options and have client choose what to do. Ask yourself, “Who is in charge?” It should be the parent. What if the doctor is wrong? Let's imagine the mom says “The doctor told me I have ____.“ and you think ”That does not look like ______.”
1. You can’t change the diagnosis.
2. Support with education and empowerment. Let the mom choose and support her decision.
3. Don’t sway her one way or another.
4. You are not responsible for her outcomes.
Teach her to be empowered and stand for herself. This is a life skill! You want her to be able to do this when you are not around. The Doula's goal is to educate, empower, and then support the parent's decision.