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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Bringing Experience to Childbirth - A Conversation With a Doula

Jason Pratt

Expectant parents might considering hiring a doula to assist with the childbirth process, but to many, the role doulas play in that process remains a mystery. To learn more about doulas's work, KBIA's Sara Shahriari spoke with local doula and student midwife Sabrina Bias – who became interested in the profession after hiring a doula and midwife to assist with one of her own births. 

This interview has been condensed and edited for content and clarity. 

Personally, I had read stories of other women and I had met a few other women who had no-intervention births. They had completely natural births and that was totally opposite from what I had experienced. I thought that sounded really nice. I sought out a doula and midwife and had an out-of-hospital birth at a free standing birth center. And it was very empowering for myself and I thought, 'Wow. If I can do this, lots of women can do this.'

Q: You previously had children in a hospital. What about the experience with the doula was empowering?

Doulas are very helpful because they are there only for support and encouragement. And so when you have a doula present they are very educated in the birth process and they've worked with other women and so they're very well equipped and experienced to know exactly how to support a laboring mom. They have different techniques and ideas, and really sometimes it's just having another cheerleader in the room to say, 'You're doing this! You've got this!' That's the main role of a doula. That's how they supported me, and it helped me a lot to know I had another cheerleader. A lot of times doulas also help husbands to be useful. A lot of times husbands have no idea what they're doing and they would like someone to say, 'Hey, do this,' or, 'help her in this way.'

Q: Where do the women you work with give birth? Are there a lot of hospital births? Home births? Birth center births?

Most people seeking a doula are having a baby in a hospital. Rarely do home birth families choose doulas just because their midwives fill that role a lot of times. All of the women I've helped as a doula have been in the hospitals. I've worked at the hospital down at the [Lake of the Ozarks], both Jefferson City hospitals, Boone Hospital, Women's and Children's. I think a lot of that is because they know they're going into an environment where they may have to really make it very clear, 'this is what I want,' because another role of the doula is to be an advocate for families. It's hard for families to go into a system sometimes and say, 'this is what I want. I know it's not your normal routine of how you provide care here.' And so they feel more empowered when they have a doula that's there to help them develop the birth plan and then help them through the whole process while we're at the hospital.

Q: When you meet women who are considering working with you or another doula, what sort of connection are you looking for?

Personal connection really is so important in this kind of role. I always tell moms that have interviewed me, 'Please, here's the other doulas in town. Interview them. You need to find the one you connect with best, because you may not necessarily want the doula that has the most experience because personality wise, you don't match.'

Sara Shahriari was the assistant news director at KBIA-FM, and she holds a master's degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. Sara hosted and was executive producer of the PRNDI award-winning weekly public affairs talk show Intersection. She also worked with many of KBIA’s talented student reporters and teaches an advanced radio reporting lab. She previously worked as a freelance journalist in Bolivia for six years, where she contributed print, radio and multimedia stories to outlets including Al Jazeera America, Bloomberg News, the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor, Deutsche Welle and Indian Country Today. Sara’s work has focused on mental health, civic issues, women’s and children’s rights, policies affecting indigenous peoples and their lands and the environment. While earning her MA at the Missouri School of Journalism, Sara produced the weekly Spanish-language radio show Radio Adelante. Her work with the KBIA team has been recognized with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and PRNDI, among others, and she is a two-time recipient of funding from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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