A fertility doula. Is there such a thing? A doula is a person who provides information, emotional and physical support through pregnancy, the birth and postpartum. Doulas are teachers, nurturers, a listening ear, a comforting hug, a hand to hold and a cheerleader. We love women through their pregnancy and birth experiences. But what if that relationship were to begin before conception? How would that benefit the family? How could that benefit the doula?
Below are my top ten reasons why doulas should also consider offering support pre-conception.
1. Conception can be hard. Doesn't it seem like something has to be hard when it comes to the journey into motherhood? Is it possible to have an easy conception, a glowing pregnancy, a gentle empowered birth and an easy going postpartum? It is much more realistic that some aspect of that journey is hard, and when it's hard, it can be really, really hard. The truth is, more than 1 in 10 women use medical assistance to become pregnant. Many, many more struggle on their own or try natural options and medical assistance doesn't guarantee a pregnancy either. 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Studies tell us that trying to conceive can be as stressful as cancer treatments. Unfortunately, there are few support options available for people who are trying to conceive and most couple's suffer through their journey's isolated and alone. People who are trying to conceive need more options for specialized, holistic (mind, body, spirit) support.
2. A doula relationship that starts pre-conception, can be even more intimate. Conception journeys may be a few months or a few years. My fertility clients seek out support at all different stages of their journeys. I'm not sure if there's anything quite like the relationship between a birth doula and her client's. Getting to know clients, who they are, what they value, what they desire and their history, it's my favourite part of being a doula. Fertility support work takes birth work to a whole new level when you've been with that woman for countless sessions through her fertility journey, supported her through miscarriages and then you are there when she is holding her real live baby and she cries and looks at you and says thank you.. There aren't words to describe the bond and the fulfillment. It's an honour and a blessing to walk beside them.
3. Education before pregnancy. Haven't you had clients learn about options that are no longer available to them because they didn't know some information sooner? "If only I knew..." When we are supporting clients during the conception process, we can start the pregnancy and birth education earlier. For example, in my community to get a midwife you have to contact them pretty much as soon as you pee on a stick. As a fertility support person, I'm sometimes the first person who knows when a client is pregnant, sometimes even before the partner. By this time my clients are already fairly well informed about the options that are available to them in our community and less likely to end up on a midwife waiting list. Not to mention, from an energetic perspective, it's very beneficial to start thinking about pregnancy and birth before one is pregnant. Women will often try not to think about those things because they are emotionally protecting themselves, but with a little encouragement and lots of emotional support, I can help them move through the hard stuff like, reading a book about birth.
4. Fertility clients often become birth clients. If you haven't already picked that up, almost all of my fertility clients choose to have me continue to support them through pregnancy and birth. It's often a natural progression. Many of my fertility/birth clients have explained that it wasn't a doula that they were interested in having, it was me. The relationship has been established and we have become a trusted source of information and emotional support. Birth doulas know that doulas are good for birth, we are good for moms and good for babies. If more birth doulas are offering fertility support, more women are going to have birth doulas and birth outcomes are going to continue to improve.
5. There are financial benefits. How many births would you have to attend each month to make a comfortable living wage? How many births would you like to attend per month? Having an additional stream of income from fertility work can offer some stability to self employed doula life. Fertility work naturally increases the volume of birth work. Adding fertility support to your business means you are more likely to be successful, you are more likely to make a comfortable living wage and thus, you'll be around in the birth world improving outcomes in your community for much longer.
6. Emotional support during conception can improve postpartum outcomes. Did you know that women who struggle with fertility are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression? We cannot guarantee outcomes or promise clients that with our support, they will become pregnant easily anymore than we can promise a positive and gentle birth. However, even when the going gets tough, being emotionally supported makes a significant difference. When conception is difficult, it can compound feelings of postpartum depression. It is common for women who tried so hard for a baby that they wanted so badly, to struggle with additional guilt and shame when postpartum is harder than was anticipated. Continuous support from preconception through postpartum can help women be prepared for some of these emotional changes and improve outcomes.
7. More families will receive support through pregnancy loss. Pregnancy and infant loss can be devastating. It's often spontaneous and shocking. When clients already have a previously established relationship with a fertility doula, they are significantly more likely to reach out for emotional support, information and even birth support when these heartaches occur. In my experience, people are unlikely to call in the support of someone that they have never met because of the intimate nature of the event, even though informational and emotional support can be of great benefit and comfort.
8. Families can learn about more options. Because people who are struggling to conceive often don't talk about their challenges with others, people don't know what their options are. People can spend significant amounts of time doing research, reading books, learning about community resources or they keep it simple and go to their family doctor and learn only what the medical system has to offer. Our communities are a goldmine of resources that can benefit different families who are trying to conceive, if only one was tapped into what is available. The job of the fertility doula is to network and build relationships with these resources so that clients can find exactly what they specifically need. Pelvic Floor Physios, Nutritionists and Blood Analysts, Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Acupuncturists, Traditional Chinese Medical Doctors, Naturopaths, Fertility Yoga Instructors, Belly Dancing Classes, Herbalists, Reflexologists, Energy Healers, support groups in addition to all of the medical options. A fertility doula is a perfect person to get to know her clients in a more intimate way and help clients decide what options are best for them. A fertility doula has already read the books and is aware of the resources available and can connect clients with anything that they might want or need.
9. Trying to conceive doesn't have to take so long. I cannot confirm this with evidence. Fertility Doula is hardly even a thing. I claim myself to be a fertility doula, but there aren't enough of us around that one could do a study and prove that fertility support shortens the length of time it takes to conceive. What I do know is that more than one of my clients gives me some credit in their conception. It's always flattering, and my ego certainly hopes that I did play some helpful part in helping a family finally manifest their baby, but how will I ever know? Some of my clients come for one to three sessions and some I support for much longer journey's. Conception is a mystery with many layers and every single journey is a unique and fascinating experience. Maybe one day, there will be a study that can give us some insight into this piece. For me, it is enough to know that clients have felt supported.
10. Fulfillment. It gives me great purpose to connect with people who are having a hard time. Most of my clients have said that they waited until their darkest moments before contacting me. I don't know why I feel so strongly called to do fertility work but I am so grateful that I leaned into it because it gives me a profound feeling of purpose to be of service to a people who are very much in need of love and support during some of their greatest challenges and transformations.
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