As a doula it is likely you have, or will have, clients who have conceived through fertility treatment. In many ways these clients have pregnancies like any other. Your client may or may not experience morning sickness, may or may not have a specific birth plan, may or may not plan on breastfeeding, just like every other client. And, in some very specific ways, clients who have conceived through fertility treatment(s) have a very special set of needs that, you as their doula can help meet. We’ve highlighted some of the most common needs a doula client who has previously dealt with fertility issues may have.
How Can we help?
While we often tend to think of interventions as something to be avoided, in this case, they can be very important. Individuals who have gone through fertility treatment often know very early about their pregnancy. Those who have undergone IVF know there is a fertilized egg in their body, even though they may not know if it is implanted. They may have even been shown an image of the egg or know its sex. And for those who have undergone any type of treatment, it is extremely likely they will want to know whether or not they are pregnant as soon as possible. Many individuals who utilize fertility treatment do so after at least 6-months-to-a-year of trying to conceive.
The anticipation and preparation for pregnancy has been ongoing and your potential clients may be either very excited to move to the next step or feel anxious and/or fearful. This early knowledge may call for early intervention from a knowledgeable and reassuring support person like you. If you are also a fertility doula and have been working with clients, your fertility clients may want you to transition your role into pregnancy and birth doula.
Depending on the situation they may want to leave their ‘old’ life behind and work with a new doula who they do not associate with infertility or loss.
Of course, both scenarios are fine, but one can leave our egos a little bruised. It is important to not take this personally. It is the journey of your clients’ and we are here to support them. If you do not work in fertility yet, it’s quite likely that you will still notice and encounter clients with a past history of infertility treatments. And, it’s quite likely that clients with a past history of (in)fertility treatments will be looking to secure the services of a doula early in their pregnancy. So, whether you’re a trained fertility specialist or not, having an intimate understanding of the early interventions that are discussed with this specific population of pregnant people is a major asset; like we (and School House Rock) always say, “Knowledge is power!”.
Increased Support for Mental Well Being:
Individuals and couples going through fertility treatment have higher rates of anxiety and depression. These feelings do not just “go away” when a person becomes pregnant, and more often than not there are feelings of anxiety and fear associated with a positive pregnancy test. In fact, people are often surprised to find that they are unable to tap into the feelings of happiness/excitement that they expected, which adds another layer of guilt along with these feelings.
On top of these documented mental health issues, fertility treatment can often add additional stress through financial costs, hormonal effects, time commitments, frustration and loss. While not true of all, many people who have gone through fertility treatment have previously experienced a loss. Perhaps a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, or just the loss of a dream of when and how they would become pregnant. These past experiences make it very hard for a newly pregnant person to connect with the pregnancy, often waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Provide and Recommend Holistic Care:
Fertility treatment can often be very medicalized and impersonal. Your client may have been visiting clinics and doctors regularly, but receiving very little holistic care. While not true of all individuals, some may feel like they are failing to achieve what they are “supposed” to as a person; they can feel cut off or detached and feel like their body has failed them in some way.
During this time we have a great opportunity to connect back with the body through various holistic care options, depending on what feels good to your client.
It is important that, as a doula, you know of the fertility sensitive/minded practitioners & classes in your area that you could refer to. For example, there may be a yoga class in
your area that is specific for pregnant people who have experienced loss, or an acupuncturist that supports a healthy first trimester. Do some research and see who can best nurture your clients during this time in their journey.
Increased and Flexible Birth Support:
While not true for all individuals, many individuals who have undergone fertility treatments have been told they have fewer options for where and how they give birth. This can be due to a variety of risk factors that are more common for those who have undergone fertility treatment, such as multiple births and older gestational age, as well as the fact that individuals become pregnant already “in” the medical treatment track, and may be referred to practitioners without being aware of all of their options.
For some individuals who have struggled with fertility, the loss of trust in their body may spill over into their confidence in birth, they may feel as though their body let them down during conception and it will inevitably let them down during birth. These thoughts, combined with the long wait for a baby and the cost associated with achieving pregnancy, can often contribute to a feeling of fear around birth, which may influence their birth plan decisions.
It is important to know that as practitioners we are here to support these birth decisions, even if clients make a choice that appears to be contradictory of what the evidence has presented in your eyes. Their risk perception is also part of the equation when we are creating a birth plan and, as doulas, we are here to support their path. The birthers are always the stars of their birth – no one else.
With all this in mind, we are excited to share with you this ebook that continues the dialogue in meeting the needs of your clients who have previously dealt with fertility issues. In this e-book we have outlined ways in which you can meet each of these important needs and provide concrete tools through meditation, breath and guided relaxation, that you can share with your clients. Plus! There’s how-to videos included!!
Emily Gold is a yoga therapist, doula, public health specialist and co-facilitator of the bebo mia Fertility Specialist Certification. She has been practicing yoga since 2003 and after completing her university degree in 2006 she traveled to Thailand where she first discovered the joys of meditation. Faced with seizures from a benign brain tumor in 2008, Emily first learned of the healing power of yoga, turning to her regular practice as a relief for the physical and mental pain she was experiencing. This healing path led her to pursue yoga teacher training, Emily now lives with her family in Brussels.
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