With 10 to 25 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies ending in miscarriage, it’s great that we’re finally talking about something that is a relatively common experience. Unfortunately, there’s still not a lot of information out there about how navigate the actual miscarriage process, both physically and mentally.
That’s where a doula can come in. While doulas are typically known for helping women through pregnancy and the birthing process, they serve a lot of other purposes too—one being helping women through pregnancy loss. These doulas are called “loss doulas.”
“A doula can be present and supportive for someone during a loss in a way that many people in their lives might not be able to,” says Megan Davidson, a doula at Brooklyn Doula and author of the upcoming book Your Birth Plan. This can be particularly important for those who miscarry in the first trimester—long before many people share their news, leaving them without an emotional support system. “Further, care providers often under-prepare people for the physical experience of miscarriage, and a doula can also be helpful in providing more information about what to expect, how to cope, what healing looks like, and options for additional support such as counseling or grief groups.”
For example, just like after a live birth, hormone levels get much lower after a miscarriage—but that’s not something we think about a lot. Loss doulas are experts in handling this. “This drop in hormones intensifies already heightened emotions,” says Ivy Joeva, a doula at LOOM. “Receiving doula support can help ease this experience. Many women even describe their miscarriage as transformational when they receive this kind of comprehensive support.”
However, not all doulas are trained in loss—so people seeking care after a miscarriage should seek out one who specializes in this. “If you’re already working with a doula when you go through a loss, she may be able to continue supporting you,” says Joeva. “Otherwise it can be helpful to look for someone trained in loss support specifically, like a pregnancy loss doula, also known as a ‘full-spectrum’ doula, since they provide support across the spectrum of pregnancy including both birth and non-birth outcomes.”
In the rarer instance of a later-term pregnancy loss, Joeva recommends hiring a postpartum doula. “A postpartum doula can provide nutritional advice, and many can provide bodywork, which is especially supportive for healing the body after pregnancy,” she says. And again, they’ll also provide that critical emotional support to help guide a person through the difficult healing process.
Because the vast majority of women who experience miscarriage go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies, Davidson says people may want to keep their doula around if they’re considering trying again. “Your doula might be one of the people who remembers what you went through during a loss and holds space for how that might be impacting your feelings during this pregnancy,” Davidson explains. Joeva adds that you can expect from a pre-natal doula services like nutritional counseling, bodywork, yoga, and resources and referrals to specialists like acupuncturists and reproductive endocrinologists.
Davidson says that as a doula, she has helped women navigate endless options in the fertility space. “I have helped people to find doctors for IVF who match their needs and helped them think through what questions they wanted to ask as they made decisions about fertility treatment,” she says. “I have also helped people as they sort through the process of having genetic testing and gathering the information they need to make sense of their results. I’ve helped many of those same people through both loss and birth.” Proof that there is hope, even with some of the hardest loss to bear.
New York’s doula community says a new state law will make it harder for them to help the people who need their services the most. And here’s why Well+Good Council member and doula Latham Thomas views her scope of practice as outside the walls of her new space.
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