Are Doula and Birth Advocacy Mutually Exclusive Roles.

Recently I have seen a spate of facebook and twitter memes being shared, about Doulas and how we should not be advocating, expressing shock and horror that the word advocacy is even being used.

I consider myself both a doula and a birth advocate – I don’t think the 2 are mutually exclusive, but that maybe because I have taken the time to research what an advocate is and does and have some experience in the field. I can be hired as either or both. It is my view these memes are based on a simple lack of understanding which I hope to clear up.

The Advocacy Project have as their strap line, “Your Voice, Your Rights, Your Choice”.

Furthermore if you read more into their website you will find they strive for “self-advocacy and empowerment”. They don’t give advice, they don’t sit in judgement, they support you to have a choice. The more I looked into advocacy the more I realised it reads in a very similar way to how I work.

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We do not think doulas who are therapists do not understand their boundaries. For example, we do not think a doula who is an acupuncturist will run around randomly sticking needles in their clients, we do not expect a doula who also carries out placenta encapsulation to walk away with the placenta unasked and uninvited. We accept that a professional will understand and distinguish between the boundaries of each role and that some Doulas have many roles.

Memes of this type are not only insulting to other doulas but to professional advocates which is a specialism of its’ own. It isn’t like advocates are there disempowering their clients, making decisions for them, judging them or speaking for them – a working or voluntary advocate has undergone training and empowers their client to know their rights and to find their voice and their inner power, in order to speak for themselves.

Publically degenerating other Doulas with or without names, sharing sarcastic memes, sitting in judgement on your colleagues and thinking that you KNOW how they practise without ever asking is demeaning to the Doula world and damaging to us all.

If you have a life, birth or other story you will like to share, please contact me HERE. 

How Have I Advocated in the Past – I was approached to support a woman and her partner to achieve a Vaginal Birth After Caesarean in the birthing pool in the Royal Gwent Hospital, which had never happened as the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board did not (and still does not) have telemetry equipment. I was unable to Doula for her as I was already on call with a client due the same time so I agreed to take on an advocacy role.

What did that mean in practice, I provided the AIMS books on VBAC and AIMS Am I Allowed – book review here on my blog. Once my client had read these she then had a better understanding of her legal rights, the statistics around VBAC. We had a long talk about birth and her options, including home birth.

​She was then able to use all of this information at appointments, ultimately declining continuous monitoring – which was for her the only reason she was being required to birth in the Consultant Led Unit and therefore she was able to get a Pool Birth agreed with her Health Care Providers.

​Sadly she was then subjected to some misinformation. Having tested Group B Strep Positive – she was told that it would take 5 days to disinfect the Birthing Pool so no-one else would be able to use it.

​I spoke with AIMS, did some research on the wonderful Sarah Wickham’s website and provided her with some links. I also from a point of interest as a Doula clarified the Trust Policy on disinfecting the pool with a Senior Midwife, this information I was also able to pass onto my client. The client was then able to attend a further meeting and have the matter resolved.

This was still not the end of it – even on turning up mid birth to the Midwife Led Unit my client was initially denied access to the Pool. Being well informed of her rights she was able to speak up and refused to go to the Consultant Led Unit – she then went on to have the beautiful water birth she so wanted.

​So there you have it birth advocacy, not so terrible after all – my client was empowered to self advocate, her use of my services as a birth advocate helped ease that path, the same way you would utilise the services of any other professional in their field.

I never attended a meeting, I never spoke for her, or made suggestions on what she should do, I was not at her birth – but I was her Birth Advocate. Yes she always had the power, she could have done it without my help – but I am a trained Doula, I know what books, websites and information are out there and where to look for them, I know how to find Trust Policies and contact details for Senior Midwifery, It is my role to know these things.

For me Birth Advocacy and Doulaing, are 2 intertwined but separate roles, should a Doula sit in public judgement on others – that is a different question and something I absolutely think is mutually exclusive.

(Posted with clients permission).

Feel free to join the South Wales Birth Circle, Home Birth Support Group UK or the South Wales Home Birth Group.

Samantha Gadsden walks with women on their life’s journeys. She is an experienced Doula, based close to Cardiff in South Wales, mother to 4 children and wife to Eddie, more information can be found on her facebook page, Samantha Gadsden Doula and her website, Caerphilly DoulaSOS DoulaTelephone and online support is always available.

If you are interested in writing a guest blog or sharing a life or birth story please feel free to contact her HERE.

“Your Journey, Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth

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