By Jessica Danforth
National Indigenous Youth Council on Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS (NIYCSHA) summer 2017 newsletter
For this summer’s newsletter we thought we would focus on a conversation that many of our Youth Council members have been having on what is a doula, and how can this help support the health and well-being of young people, especially young families, living with and affected by HIV and other STBBI’s.
So first off, what is a doula?
According to the Doulas of North America (DONA), “the word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.” (DONA, 2016).
Doulas provide emotional, physical and spiritual support for women and families during pregnancy, labour and after birth. A doula encourages and supports women and their families to make informed decisions about pregnancy, birth, postpartum and newborn care and to feel confident and comfortable with plans and decisions about their care. Doulas encourage healthy relationships with family and community and can help connect women and families to additional supports where needed. Overall, doulas aim to support healthy and positive pregnancy, birth and post-partum experiences – a best start for the journey into parenting.
A full spectrum doula provides support across the full spectrum of pregnancy and reproductive health outcomes, including but not limited to pregnancy, birth, immediate post-partum, miscarriage, loss, termination, and intersected realities of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI’s), survivors of abuse and violence, and adoption/child welfare.
In addition, there are current conversations going on in New York City right now on what specifically would an HIV doula do – that would not just be based on whether someone was pregnant or “woman” identifying but how could the model and framework of doula care support anyone in their HIV journey and realities they are facing? Two articles of interest on these conversations here:
So far three NIYCSHA members have taken doula trainings and it is part of an ongoing dialogue within the Youth Leadership Project given both the realities facing young people, pregnancy and HIV and other STBBI’s, but also how being a “doula” is part of reclaiming a traditional role of support within our communities. We look forward to reporting back more as we continue to work on this together!