How Doulas Support Expecting Mothers, According to Latham Thomas of Mama Glow
Giving birth is a sacred and empowering ritual that bonds women across the world. It’s a uniquely female act that represents strength and responsibility, and highlights the power that women contain within them.
Latham Thomas, doula, author, speaker and founder of Mama Glow and its new Mama Glow Immersion Doula Program, is seeking to shine an even brighter spotlight on pregnancy and the birthing process, helping women (and men) embrace the entire cycle, and find support in each stage.
Says Latham, “[At Mama Glow], we are changing the face of maternal health by empowering women at the threshold of change in their lives. We see birth as a unique opportunity to support and empower women, as well as educate society about the innate strength of the female body and the sacred process of pregnancy and birth.”
Keep reading to see how doulas can help create a smooth and supportive birthing environment.
Doula programs like Mama Glow, which launched in June 2018, offer full spectrum support for fertility, birth clients and new mothers, “holding their hands as they transition into this new phase of their lives,” says Latham. “We seek to dismantle the stigmas and fears around the birth process for women. We also work to democratize birth support and have birth doulas available for every woman who desires one.”
Alicia Hudson, a Brooklyn-based member of Mama Glow’s inaugural cohort, had personal experience with how the healthcare system isn’t always flexible to fit an individual’s needs, when she was pregnant with her son 12 years ago. “As a lower income, uninsured African-American woman, I was encouraged to go the conventional route and find an OB-GYN in a clinic or through the city hospital,” she says. “I was only 23 years old at the time but knew I preferred a more holistic approach to my health needs.”
She was able to find a midwife who operated on a sliding price scale, and, says Alicia, “My birth experience with her and my doula was beyond beautiful. I am so thankful to now be in a position to offer support to other women in my community. Every women deserves to birth their baby in a safe, comfortable and supportive environment.”
Part of the reason Latham is passionate about training new birth workers is because there are so many benefits associated with using a doula during a birth. According to her, clinical trials have demonstrated that the presence of a coach or doula is associated with a reduction in C-sections and the the use of forceps. Using a doula or coach can also result in fewer epidurals and less maternal after-birth bleeding; can help shorten labor; can lower rates of newborn complications; and can increase maternal satisfaction, lowering postpartum depression rates.
The Unique Support a Doula Can Offer
If you’re like me, you may have wondered what the difference is between a midwife and a doula. A midwife, says Latham, is a health care provider who can deliver your baby at the hospital, birth center or at home and can be chosen in lieu of an OB if you are looking to have a more holistic approach to your birth.
On the other hand, “A doula is a labor coach, a constant presence of support and an advocate for the mother/couple,” Latham says. “She serves as a liaison between the midwife and the mother/couple or the doctor and the mother/couple.”
A doula can offer emotional support and a sense of safety and security. Latham says her clients are like family, and that she talks to and texts them frequently. “We build a trust with the women we serve and they become vulnerable with us,” she says. “It’s a trust that is built upon frequent and consistent affirmative interaction. We work to help our mamas feel confident in spirit and in their bodies. We want them to feel capable and claim their maternal power.”
Doulas can also offer tried and true techniques to help achieve results, whether that’s nipple stimulation to increase the intensity of contractions, or the use of herbs to help move the labor along, or just laying next to the birthing mother, stroking her hair and breathing with her, offering gentle encouragement.
Doulas often transcend the physical space with their clients, says Mama Glow doula trainee Melissa Howell of Philadelphia. “I can connect with a mother on the spiritual nature of her womanhood and how she envisions her birthing experience, regardless of if we subscribe to the same or differing beliefs or practices. Doula work is a space where clients can bring their full selves as women, and I can too, as a doula, to support her through her evolution and becoming a mother.”
What Defines the Mama Glow Immersion Doula Program
Trainee Ebonie “Karma” Tudor of the Brooklyn/Queens area, shares how she became part of the first cohort: “On my way to the mall to splurge on a designer bag that would set me back more than needed, I saw Latham had posted her doula training. I stopped everything and paid for the training right on the spot. It was if my ancestors were giving me signs every time I turned around, that this was the next chapter in my life.”
Melissa agrees. She’d been interested in being a doula for a few years, but hadn’t found the right program. “I found the more popular trainings were based on membership platforms that offered structure but not necessarily community. Community and in-person support are very critical to my learning style.”
Mama Glow goes beyond community though, she continues. “Latham offered a phenomenal training by weaving in personal anecdotes, historical context, and even suggestions for how we could incorporate different approaches into our own doula practice,” says Melissa. “The training was grounded first in history and anatomy—two fundamental contexts for new doulas.”
Alicia, who’d been an admirer of Latham for a few years before entering the doula training and signed up as soon as she heard about it, says that the holistic way the program was structured made it the right choice for her. “The curriculum for the immersion was super informative and in depth but also divine and magical. I left feeling so empowered and prepared to do this work.”
It even helped Ebonie heal old wounds. “[Before the training], I never thought of my own birth story, because it was so traumatic. I chose to push it in the back of my mind,” she says. “When I realized that I had so many options not offered to me, that could have made my birth story a little more comfortable, I refused to let another expecting woman go through her beautiful journey without knowing all that I learned.”
And, says Melissa, the doula immersion program was multi-sensory, leaving her feeling calm and soothed, even weeks after she was physically in a class. “I still comment how rare it is to spend eight hours in a course, walk out into a bustling Brooklyn, and feel like you are shielded and separate from the noise and negative energy that can come from the magnitude of personalities in New York City.”
Making Doulas Accessible for Everyone
Doula accessibility has become part of the overlapping conversation about healthcare and motherhood. Says Latham, “In this intense political climate where the future of women’s health is uncertain, skilled birth workers are needed on the front lines.”
Add to that the growing black maternal mortality crisis, and, says Latham, this is a critical moment to advance education and create more access to birth doulas. “Birth activism is central to the pulse of our mission and training,” she says.
Melissa agrees, saying that the “discouraging success rates of maintaining excellent maternal health in the face of narrowing spaces where women can make choices about their own bodies, limiting insurance and modern American medical priorities, the practice and the advocacy surrounding [doula practice] is increasingly important.”
In Latham’s eyes, “everyone should have a doula if they wish. And there is a doula for everyone out there. There is a person who gels with your personality and can anticipate your needs and make you feel completely supported.”
Need a few third-trimester tips? Check out our five tools to get through your third-trimester while also staying sane.
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