“It wasn’t supposed to be this way”: Birth trauma & the role of the doula

When someone shares with you they’ve had a “traumatic birth”, do you know:

  •  How to respond?
  • Where to refer?birth trauma

We’re seeing more and more clients who report their births were traumatic, but more often than not, the birth story is the window into deeper feelings of sadness, grief & loss, powerlessness and loss of trust which proceeded the birth experience, and gets entangled within the birthing narrative.

It’s important to know what the differences are between traumatic births and longstanding, unresolved feelings of abandonment and trauma (and how these overlap and intersect) so that we don’t project our feelings about clients’ births onto their stories, fail to hear what they are really saying, and don’t refer to more appropriate support.

As doulas ourselves, we recognize that doulas are often the “first responders” to women who describe birth events that may lead doulas and clients alike to question whether or not they are left traumatized by these experiences.

The role of the doula at that point, when those questions arise, is to respond in a supportive manner and to refer to counseling/counselors in the community.

Unless birth workers have additional training on supporting & responding to trauma, it is out of their scope of practice to “do the work” with our clients of processing birth trauma beyond supporting, normalizing and referring – it is not our role as doulas to diagnosis, to label what we are seeing or project our experiences onto others’ stories.

This is where our counseling practice “Sharing Spaces” emerged from – the need for the educational and clinical background in counseling to work with many of the women and families who wanted to see me. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t able to foster a relationship that can have therapeutic outcomes when trauma is “in the room”, it just means we need to do a LOT of self-reflection on whether or not we personally have the skills to do the work. And this all gets more difficult when we know our clients may have barriers (i.e. money, support, waitlists) to accessing counselling services.

  • What CAN we do?
  • How do we continue to support our clients without crossing professional boundaries?

We recognize that doula clients trust their doulas. As a doula myself I wanted to know what I COULD do to support mammas (and their caregivers) in the moment.

We’d like to share with you what we believe is appropriate, and how to do the work that fosters healing within your birth work scope.

Please join us April 19, 2015 for a full day workshop discussing these issues, co-facilitated by veteran doulas, advocates and counselors Jodi Hall, PhD and Amanda Saunders, MSW, RSW. Fee: $75.00 includes lunch and teaching materials.

Let’s ensure we are all working within our scope to ensure the health and wellbeing of pregnant and parenting women and their families.

And our own well-being too!

email: jodi@jodihall.ca to register



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