By Eleanor Prado, Houston area doula
January 6, 2021
Navigating parenthood brings all sorts of challenges, no matter what stage of life you’re in. Eleanor Prado had her first child when she was a junior in college, living off of food stamps and WIC provisions. “I was on the verge of a massive life transition in more ways than one,” Eleanor says, “but I just felt lost and overwhelmed.”
Eleanor persevered through her high-risk pregnancy without much support and experienced postpartum depression for years thereafter. The most poignant part of her story is that it is not uncommon. In Harris County alone—with some of the best healthcare facilities in the world—circumstances like Eleanor’s happen to thousands of women each year.
Eleanor has since worked through her PPD, built support systems, and 8 years later, had a completely different birthing experience. When she reflects back on the single most influential change between her first and second pregnancies, however, she says resolutely, “it was the support of my doula that changed my and my babies’ lives.”
What is a Doula?
A doula is a trained non-clinical companion, who is there to support, empower, and comfort birthing people. While they do not provide medical care, doulas can provide the “full-spectrum” of reproductive needs—ranging from prenatal care, labor support, and postpartum counseling. Like many others, Eleanor wishes she had known about doulas before her first pregnancy, which is why she has dedicated her life to becoming a doula and supporting other women at such a critical junction.
Eleanor calls herself the “birth amoeba,” ready to provide whatever assistance necessary to make the birthing experience as empowering as possible for her client. “This is not my birth. This is your birth. I cannot guarantee outcomes, but I can guarantee that every step of the way my clients feel like decisions weren’t forced upon them and that they had a say in how it goes.” This can look like offering comfort positioning demonstrations, talking through a scheduled C-section, honoring cultural norms in the sterile hospital environment, and so much more.
What are the benefits of having a doula?
Beyond statistics, doula care has been linked with improved quality satisfaction from mothers and their families. Often, doulas are members of the communities they serve and can offer unparalleled solidarity and kinship, especially in terms of dispelling racial biases.
There are many different types of doulas specific to what you’re looking for, and often the best way to find the right one is simply by asking yourself the right questions.
Eleanor shares with us some tips on finding the right doula for you:
- Make sure the doula is available for your due date
- Try to meet the doula in-person or via video chat to get a feel for their personality
- What is the doula’s support style?
- Are you wanting someone who is actively coaching or perhaps someone more passive and comforting?
- How many clients is the doula serving each month?
- Some might be busier but have more experience. Others might have less experience but have a more open schedule with the ability to dedicate more time to you individually.
- Location: does the doula live far away? Can they reach you if you need them during rush hour?
- What payment plans do they offer?
- Most doulas are run privately and are not covered by insurance. However, some doulas offer scholarships or deferred payment plans.
- Websites such as doulamatch.net or Facebook groups such as ‘Moms of Houston’ are more great ways to get your search started!
For more information, listen to Eleanor’s new podcast, In the Family Way, or find her on social media @eleanorpradodoula.