These Doulas Are Making the Birth Process More Inclusive
Having help before, during, and after pregnancy is crucial. As a result, some choose to enlist a doula — a childbirth professional who provides emotional, physical, and educational support through a family’s pregnancy and birthing journey. Doulas understand that while giving birth can be an intense experience on its own, many people face additional hurdles based on their race, sexuality, economic status, and location. As the world begins to make progress through social justice movements, doulas are emerging as more than just birthing companions — they are making room for people of all kinds to feel loved, supported, safe, and happy.
Here are some doula organizations that are making the birth experience more inclusive across the United States.
Open to families of all kinds, these doulas specialize in services for parents who are lesbian, gay, trans, non-binary, queer, single, monogamous, and polyamorous. Based in Washington, D.C., their mission is to provide birthing and postpartum support for what might be considered an alternative lifestyle. These doulas make it clear that someone’s lifestyle choice isn’t a reason to deny the care they need.
According to the Rainbow Doula DC website, Rainbow Doulas “strive to create a supportive environment during this crucial process of birth and new parenthood. We are also adept at navigating hospital systems that may be unfriendly to folks outside the gender binary.” Their social media accounts especially highlight the stories of trans men, who face more than some of the typical LGBTQ+ birthing stigmas. Rainbow Doula DC doulas are trained to respect gender pronouns and use more inclusive vocabulary, such as “chestfeeding” instead of “breastfeeding,” which allow trans families to feel comfortable through their birthing-process experience.
Ancient Song Doula Services
Based in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, this doula organization goes beyond just birthing support. Part of their mission is to shift the birthing narrative in the form of policy reform, campaigns for equity in maternal health, workshops, and conferences. Their website states that there is much work to be done to combat the “implicit bias and racism within maternal and reproductive health,” and they are ready to help.
One of their innovative programs is centered around mothers giving birth in prison, primarily with women who are currently at Rikers Island Rose M. Singer's Women's Jail. These doulas offer “one-on-one doula consults, childbirth education, prenatal support, art therapy, meditation, birth planning, prenatal nutrition, and pain management prior to birth,” along with postpartum support, especially for mothers in re-entry programs. Their Instagram account is a gallery of ways they combine social justice and parenthood for marginalized communities. (Due to COVID-19, labor and birth-support services from doulas or family members for inmates are currently not allowed by Department of Correction.)
Cornerstone Doula Trainings
Doulas need support, too, and Cornerstone Doula Trainings know that creating a more inclusive birthing culture starts with education. The program developed a system called C.A.R.E. for its participants, to ensure the values of their work are present for both doulas and new families long after the birthing process is complete:
C: Care, Connection, Community.
A: Authenticity, Access, Advocacy.
R: Relevant, Reliable, Reputable.
E: Excellence, Expertise, Equity.
To make their services even more inclusive, Cornerstone Doula Trainings offers classes online so that anyone, anywhere, can become trained within their value system. Scholarships are provided to BIPOC communities who might otherwise be financially prohibited from receiving training; in this way, the organization is able to come full-circle, by allowing doulas to serve their own communities and create sustainable support systems.
Accompany Doula Care
Cultural barriers can make the birthing experience stressful, but the doulas at Accompany Doula Care specialize in supporting these kinds of families in ways that feel familiar to them. According to their website, many of their doulas are multilingual, allowing for “easier communication between birthing parents and healthcare providers.” It’s important for them to be advocates for new parents and ensure they have a voice in the birthing process from day one.
Accompany Doula Care provides an equitable doula experience by being paired with marginalized families who otherwise might not be able to afford doula care. According to their website, they don’t accept private or self-pay clients; all of the work they do is set up with hospital and health-care provider partnerships. They also fight for doula rights and underprivileged families in need of assistance, especially women of color, by supporting and amplifying healthcare rights such as Bill H.1182, an Act relative to Medicaid coverage for doula services.
Giving birth shouldn’t be harder than it has to be. We’re lucky to have doulas like these available for people in need, increasing the ability for families to experience the birthing process in safe, supported manners. Their actions are propelling inclusive birth-care, and changing the way people give birth for generations to come.