GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – West Michigan mothers and partners looking for professional support throughout their pregnancy may have it easier than before: 26 independent birth advocates, or Doulas, have come together to create the Grand Rapids Area Doula Network.
Doulas are birthing professionals trained to provide education and support during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Doulas work alongside medical doctors or midwives, during home and hospital births, and throughout different phases of labor, to support parents.
Jillian and Darek Hawkins are expecting their first baby girl this October. They told FOX 17 they are planning a natural home birth, and working out a birthing plan and ways to cope with pain management and anxiety with their birth doula.
“It’s really helping women to take power into their hands, and to take charge of their birth, and I think that’s absolutely important,” said Jillian. “It’s really eased my mind a lot, with just knowing that I’m going to have somebody who knows how this all goes down.”
Megan Michelotti is a certified birth doula who collaborated with 26 local doulas to create the Grand Rapids Area Doula Network, and then launched its website.
Michelotti said the website allows medical doctors to refer curious patients directly to a network of doulas, and enables parents to easily research their options.
"People are coming out of hospitals emotionally traumatized, even if they're healthy and their baby's healthy, and it's for lack of information,” said Michelotti.
Michelotti said the word doula is Greek for “a woman who serves,” saying birth and postpartum doulas work as advocates for parents and provide support from comfort to caring for older siblings once a baby is welcomed home.
"There's a gap in training as far as caring for the mom's emotional needs and physical comfort, which is a totally different thing than physical, medical well-being,” said Michelotti.
According to Dona.org, clinical studies show that mothers who have doulas present at birth tend to have shorter labors with fewer complications. For example, mothers working with doulas reduce the amount of cesarean sections by 26-percent.
The Hawkins told FOX 17 working with their doula has boosted their confidence.
“There is only so much experience that a father without a child can gain through reading books, it’s something you have to live through,” said Darek. “So I feel that it’s something that definitely helps her out and eases her mind, which eases my mind, and going to make this as comfortable and smooth as possible.”
Michelotti reiterated that the idea of who a doulas are is broadening, from religious to pagan doulas, as well as doulas who support either natural, home, or hospital births.
As for the cost of working with doulas, it ranges. The Hawkins said they are paying their birth doula (for three pre-natal visits and birth assistance) about $1,000. However, Michelotti told FOX 17 the average doula cost is $500.