By Kathy Brown.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines a doula as “a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth.”
Jessica James of Haddam became “passionate about pregnancy and childbirth after having my own four children,” she told us. “Each pregnancy and birth was so unique, but my fourth was an incredibly positive experience because I was able to birth naturally, with the support of my wonderful husband. This experience, along with attending the labor of a close friend who was using a doula, awakened in me a desire to see more women with a positive birth experience.”
In March 2021, Jessica James established Beautifully Born Doula Services, after completing training through International Doula Institute, to become a Certified Birth Doula. She is also working toward becoming a Childbirth Educator so that she can teach Childbirth Education classes at a local hospital. There are over 80 organizations that certify doulas in the United States.
Before spending 10 years at home with her kids, Jessica was an elementary teacher and a chiropractic assistant. “I feel as though both of those jobs prepared me well for my role as a doula,” said Jessica. She and her husband, Joshua, have four kids ranging in age from 3-10 years old. She has been homeschooling them for five years.
“Doulas utilize physical comfort measures and offer emotional/mental support and encouragement,” explained Jessica. “The role of a birth doula is also to provide evidence-based information to expectant parents during pregnancy, in order to help them feel educated and prepared to make decisions during labor and delivery, which can typically be a very overwhelming process.”
The doula doesn’t just help the expectant mother. “Besides being an advocate for the mom-to-be, a doula can also be a huge benefit for fathers, who may feel a little unsure of how to help during the process,” said Jessica. “Having a birth doula has many proven benefits for mom and baby, as it lessens the chances of having a C-section or other interventions, shortens the time of labor, and decreases the likelihood of needing an epidural or other pain medications. In addition, women who hire a doula are more likely to have positive lasting memories associated with birth. Also, when babies are born having a doula present, they are more likely to have a better APGAR score within the first few minutes of birth.”
According to centerforhealthjournalism.org, “the benefits are greatest for low-income women, women of color, and those who face cultural or language barriers — in short, women at highest risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.”
In 2016, the Health Care Payment Learning & Action Network, which was convened by the US Dept. of Health & Human Services to determine ways to improve the value delivered by the health care system, recommended that insurers include doula services in maternity coverage. The March of Dimes has also called for increased access to doula care.
Though at this time Jessica is the only doula in her business, she does have a back-up doula if an unexpected situation comes up. She meets with the client at her house or theirs, and when they go into labor, she joins them at their home, the hospital, or a place of their choosing for the birth.
“Childbirth is one of the most significant events in a woman’s life, and unfortunately, many women have traumatic experiences surrounding birth,” said Jessica. “I’m hoping to use my skills and passion about pregnancy and childbirth, to help normalize birth as the physiologic process that it is and reduce the fear behind birth to help women have a more positive birth experience.”
During this study, it was found that new mothers expected their nurse to spend over half of their time offering support, but only 6-10% of the nurse’s time was actually engaged in labor support activities. This study showed that “The evidence suggests that it is likely more than the emotional, physical, and informational support doulas give to women during the birthing process that accounts for the reduced need for clinical procedures during labor and birth, fewer birth complications, and more satisfying experiences during labor, birth, and postpartum. The doula empowers decisions that are made in the best interest of both the mother and her child.”
“Being a teacher greatly influenced my ability to relate to people of all ages with compassion and patience,” said Jessica. “Teaching also produced in me the ability to relay information in a clear and understandable way.” She went on to say that in addition to her degree in education, she also worked as a chiropractic assistant for many years, and took Anatomy and Physiology courses. “I believe all of these skills will greatly enhance my work as a doula.”
“I became a birth doula with the hope that I can use my education, passion, and personal experience to support other laboring moms,” said Jessica.
Photos provided by Jessica James.