A new generation of doulas is stepping up to help some of the most vulnerable moms-to-be. More and more young women are offering doula services to pregnant teens, sometimes when they're still teens themselves.
Some, like Allie Sakowicz, are interested in careers in the medical field and volunteer as teen doulas as a way of gaining experience and helping their peers.
Sakowicz offers birthing and peer support to pregnant teens in the Chicago area. She has been featured on local news stations and in Oprah magazine, where she recounted one story of a young woman whose boyfriend dropped her at the hospital's front doors and drove away on the evening she was to be induced:
"Sakowicz spent 40 hours straight with the frightened mom-to-be—massaging her lower back through contractions, keeping a bleary-eyed vigil over monitors, and consoling her through the worst labor pains until a healthy girl emerged. 'When the baby comes,p Sakowicz says, 'there's no place else I'd rather be.'"
Sakowicz obtained her doula certification when she was only 17. She told Today that being a peer gives her an edge that other doulas don’t have:
“Some teen moms don’t want a ‘mother’ figure and they see me more as a friend. They aren’t as embarrassed to talk to me about certain things as they might be with an older doula. I have both a friendship and a professional relationship with young moms.”
Doula certification requires attending and acting as the primary doula for births, submitting extensive written work, obtaining written evaluations from physicians and patients, and completing hours of instruction on birth methods, breastfeeding and postpartum support.
Some doula training organizations offer discounts for young adults who want to go through doula training. Childbirth Professionals International offers a $100 discount for those who are under 21, for instance.
States like Minnesota have worked to introduce legislation in an effort to obtain third-party payment for doulas in programs such as Medicaid, and some insurance carriers help pay for doula services. Some hospitals also provide free doula services, or provide them for certain groups such as teen moms, new immigrants and single mothers.
Advocacy groups point out that doula services tend to save money in the long run by leading to reduced rates of C-sections and epidurals, decreased lengths of hospital stays, and higher breastfeeding rates.
To find out more about becoming certified to be a birth doula, to get more information about the benefits of doula services or to find doulas in your area, see DONA International.
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