I used to think of doulas as birth advocates. Someone that a certain type of person hired to “be in their corner” during the labor and birthing process. To make sure that their birth preferences were followed to the letter. That was until I attended a ProDoula training and we had a long discussion about the term “advocate.”
An advocate is someone that fights for a cause or defends a proposal, typically in the court. How does this definition apply specifically to birth? A “birth advocate” would be someone that is fighting for or defending a certain WAY of giving birth. Think about that for a minute: someone telling you how YOU should give birth, based on their own beliefs. Many birth advocates believe that a “natural birth” (typically defined as vaginal, drug-free, and intervention-free) is the only acceptable birth. The fact is that is there not one single way to give birth—Birth looks different for everyone. Many factors will play into the outcome, but the most important one is CHOICE.
A healthy adult woman, who also happens to be pregnant, is capable of making her own choices. Particularly when those choices involve her own body and/or baby. Pregnancy is not a mentally debilitating condition. There are certainly some physical challenges, and some woman face medical challenges as well, but a woman that is pregnant is still able to make her own decisions. She may need some guidance, some assistance in finding tidbits of information, a pause in the commotion to access her feelings, but she does NOT need someone to make decisions for her. She does not need to be reminded of the “best way” because she knows what is the RIGHT WAY for her body and her baby.
That is why a professional doula is not a birth advocate. They are not there to fight for you. Or defend you from anything or anyone. A professional doula does not have their own agenda. They are not there to force a certain kind of birth upon you. They are there to serve, to support, to assist you physically and emotionally.
Your care provider is not your birth advocate either, but they ARE your health advocate. Your care provider is there insure the health and safety of your baby and your body. This is why it is essential to choose a care provider that you trust. One who is aware of your own preferences and will work with you to reach them, but also knows when it may be time to change the plans so that everyone involved stays safe and healthy.
A healthy, pregnant adult does not need a birth advocate. What a laboring mother needs is a team of people working together within their own scope to take care of every aspect of her being. A trusted care provider will be there to advocate for her health and her baby’s health. A professional doula will be there to support her mental and emotional health.
Northwest Suburban Doula will not be your birth advocate; we believe that YOU are your best advocate. We would, however, LOVE to support you through your pregnancy, labor, and postpartum period! We would be honored to be a part of your trusted team. Call us to learn more.