What is a Doula? An Interview with Alyssa Kinney, Certified Birth & Postpartum Doula/Certified Childbirth Educator

What is a Doula? An Interview with Alyssa Kinney, Certified Birth & Postpartum Doula/Certified Childbirth Educator

Do you know what a Doula is, or what they do? Most first-time parent’s, and sometimes repeat parent’s, do not know what a Doula is. Or they have heard of Doula’s, but they still do not know what they do/are for. I personally first heard of Doula’s when I was pregnant with my first child. I was sitting in the waiting room in my Ob’s office and saw a sign for Doula services on the Midwife side of the office. I remember saying to myself I should google what a Doula is when I got home. I forgot. Later on, after I had my daughter via C-Section, and I was questioning the care and choices made by myself and my Doctors during my daughter’s birth I remembered the sign I had seen months earlier. I quickly googled what a Doula was and what they did, and I instantly realized I really could have used a Doula during my daughter’s birth. Hindsight is 20/20, but since my C-Section was not an emergency C-Section, and I felt pressured into having one I now believe that if I had a Doula my daughter’s birth would have gone differently. While a healthy baby and mother are very important after child-birth a mother happy with the way in which she birthed her child is also important. (Please do not let anyone tell you otherwise.) That is why while pregnant with my second I made it a mission of mine to learn all about my birthing choices, and to learn about Doula’s and what they do. I was very fortunate to meet Alyssa Kinney of Bella Rose Birth Services, a certified birth and postpartum Doula, and also a certified childbirth educator at the Birthing Circles Birth and Babies Fair in Frederick, MD. She was very kind to let me interview her so that I could help others learn more about what Doula’s are and what they do. Below is my interview with Alyssa.

What exactly is a Doula? (Can you give us a little history?) “Doulas, as we know them now, are individuals that provide a wide range of non-clinical support to pregnant folks (and their families) throughout pregnancy, during labor and birth, and even during those first few weeks and months postpartum. Doulas are often trained and certified by one of many certifying organizations; these trainings and the doula’s own values guide them in providing their clients with the informational, emotional, and physical support that meets the clients’ needs throughout the perinatal period. Modern doulas have evolved from an extensive history of birth companionship; although the doula profession is a more recent development, non-medical family and friends have supported women during birth for centuries.”

Are there different kinds of Doula’s? “There are all sorts of doulas! Doulas are a diverse bunch, their style and support is as unique as the families that they work with. Some doulas specialize in birth support while others are also postpartum doulas, newborn care specialists, and sibling doulas.”

What is the main role/biggest benefits of a Doula? (Before, during, and after a birth? Or after a C-Section) “I think that the biggest benefit to having a doula is the continuous support and presence that they offer. Your doula is there prenatally- establishing a relationship with you (and your family) and providing you with the informational and emotional support that you need throughout those 40-something weeks. Your doula is there throughout the entirety of your labor and birth experience- providing a positive and calming presence, working with you to navigate the physical intensity of labor and birth, as well as simply holding space for the emotional ferocity that often accompanies birth. And in those first days and weeks postpartum, when the birthing person is healing and engulfed in new parenthood, your doula is there to provide the emotional support that you need without allowing the more practical stuff like aiding in physical recovery, assistance with newborn care, housekeeping chores, and just a few uninterrupted hours of sleep or self-care to be forgotten.”

When should individuals start looking into hiring a Doula. (A certain Trimester?) “I’d suggest that folks start interviewing doulas as soon as they think that doula support is something they are interested in. It could take a little time to find the doula that’s right for you as we are all a little different. Getting a jump on the process ensures that the doula of your choice will have availability around your due date and also allows plenty of time to establish a friendly and comfortable relationship with each other. Beginning your search early in the second trimester is probably a great time to start. All that being said though, it’s never too late to find a wonderful doula!”

Are Doula services covered under health insurance? “Generally speaking- unfortunately no, doula support is often not covered by health insurance. However, many individuals can use funds from Health Savings Accounts (or the like) to cover doula support or, depending on their insurance coverage and plans, partial reimbursement for doula support is sometimes a possibility. This is always something to speak to your health insurer about, you might be pleasantly surprised! If nothing else, more folks inquiring about doula coverage under insurance might make it more of a reality in the future.”

What would you say to someone, or a spouse, who is skeptical about using a Doula? “The choice to invite a doula into your birth experience is a very personal one and deserves kind and thorough consideration from all involved. The health and wellness benefits of doula support have been well established and I don’t know a single individual or family that has regretted their decision to work with a doula. Support will be tailored to what you foresee your individual needs and preferences being and open communication during the interviewing process as well as throughout your time with your doula is key to creating the type of support you desire. Doulas do not take the place of partners but, facilitate stronger and more meaningful connections between them during the birth experience. And finally, if the added cost of doula support is part of one’s skepticism know that doulas are often open to alternative payment schedules- doula support is worth every penny invested!”

Why did you decide to become a Doula? “I decided to become a doula after a few years of teaching childbirth classes. I had two very positive and empowering birth experiences, it was after the birth of my first daughter that I knew I wanted to work within the pregnancy and birth world. Teaching birth classes gave me that opportunity and aligned well with where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do as it pertained to raising my own children and maintaining my household fulltime. As my children got a little older I found myself with the time and energy I felt that I needed to train and establish myself as a doula, in addition to my birth education offerings. Through this work I feel as though I am helping families create positive, informed, and joyous birth experiences; it is an honor and a joy to witness and sometimes help others realize their own power and autonomy through birth.”

Do you feel the use of Doula’s is on the rise? If so why? “I sure hope so! Slowly but surely, I do think that the use of doula support is on the rise. More folks are realizing the immense benefit to having that continuous, compassionate, non-judgmental, and experienced support throughout pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum. The birthing years are monumental times in people’s lives, everyone deserves and can benefit from the added support that doulas provide. However, the percentage of birthing individuals and families that actually utilize doula support is still extremely low (something like 3-5% but, I’d have to dig up the research there); so, I think that there is still lots of work to be done in increasing society’s awareness of doulas and the value of that support.”

What is the most important piece of advice you would give to expectant parents looking to hire a Doula? “The most important piece of advice that I would give to expectant families looking to hire a doula is to find a good fit! Interview a few, consider what’s important to you like personality, experience, cost, values, etc., and make sure you’ve found someone that you feel overwhelmingly positive and happy about. There are lots of great doulas out there and each one should be kind, non-judgmental, and professional but, we all offer support that’s a little different from the next. You will find the one that’s perfect for you!”

What is the most memorable experience you have had while being someone’s Doula? “It’s hard to narrow down the most memorable experience I’ve had while being a doula, in all honesty beauty abounds in each and every experience that I’ve had. There seems to come a time though during every birth experience, no matter what “type” of birth one is having, that the birthing person has to access the power deep within themselves to navigate their journey; seeing women tap into this very intrinsic strength and energy is awe inspiring every time. Comedy abounds in lots of birth experiences too- another moment that sticks out to me was when a doting dad-to-be forgot to pack himself a pair of pants in the birth day go bag and spent the entire birth experience in his fleecy Disney pajama bottoms; mom had the wherewithal and humor to tease him throughout as well.”

What services do you provide as a Doula? “I work as a certified birth and postpartum doula and am also a certified childbirth educator. I offer conscientious, compassionate, and affordable birth and postpartum doula support as well as private and group childbirth education options. As a doula I am with my clients every step of the way- from emotional and informational support as they navigate their pregnancy and explore all of their options prenatally to birth support and care into the fourth trimester. I approach prenatal education, birth, and the postpartum period in a holistic manner; I make certain that the individuals and families I work with have access to evidence-based resources and information as well as support for total wellbeing- mind, body, and spirit.”

I want to thank Alyssa so much for letting me interview her, and I really hope the above information in this interview has helped you to understand a little bit more about who Doula’s are and what they do. Being educated about your birthing choices and options is very important. A lot of information about birthing options, tips/tricks, or resources are not given or shared by most OB or even some Midwife practices. Birth is still a big unknown, but with research and a supportive team behind you the big unknowns grow significantly smaller.

***If you reside in Maryland and are looking for a Doula or childbirth education classes please make sure you consider Alyssa Kinney of Bella Rose Birth Services. She can be found online via her website https://bellaroseborn.com/ on Facebook Here and on Instagram Here


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