Changemaking

Why Needed is Supporting Doula Scholarships.

Paula James-Martinez

 

This spring, Needed proudly provided a full scholarship to CHB Postpartum Doula Training, emphasizing the importance of birth worker training as part of our ongoing commitment to changemaking and improving outcomes for mothers.

This initiative has made a significant impact in democratizing access to education, enabling those taking the course to embark on their postpartum doula journey and ultimately enhancing support for families during pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond.

The journal sat down with the team at Carriage House Birth to ask why this is so important and what sort of impact it can have on growing families.

Needed: What is your doula scholarship program and why is it important?

Carriage House: Our scholarship program prioritizes Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latinx people regardless of income, LGBTQIA2S+, and people who are experiencing financial hardship in support of our larger goal to provide access for and train doulas who will raise the standard of care for the most vulnerable birthing bodies.  

Needed: What do folks learn in a doula scholarship with Carriage House?

Carriage House: Our Birth Doula Training course lays the foundation for anyone pursuing a path as a birth doula. A collaboration between Carriage House Birth, Woven Bodies, and Dorcas Davis Consulting, our 9-week program offers comprehensive training and fundamental information, so our students are adequately equipped with the expertise to support birthing families with confidence and compassion.  Every birth experience is unique, so we think it’s critical that our doula training students learn from teachers with a breadth of lived experiences. 

Our teachers are experienced doulas, seasoned mentors focused on the perinatal space, esteemed birth educators, and antiracist and LGBTQIA+ activists. Building a solid base of medical knowledge around birth is crucial, but so too is work that goes beyond the physical acts of laboring and delivery. In the CHB training program our students will also dig deep into questions of bias, privilege, race, and inequalities, which all intersect the birthing process. 

Needed: When we think about the type of support a doula provides, tell me how nutrition becomes part of that support?

Carriage House: A doula offers informational, educational, and physical support through the childbearing journey. Building a solid foundation both physically and mentally is an important part of the birth process. When supporting the physical we know that optimal nutrition leads to reduced risks and better outcomes for both parent and baby. Nutritional support begins early on in the process by doulas supporting the client’s dietary choices and recommending prenatal vitamins and supplements. We also help doula clients identify signs of nutritional deficiency and ensure that they are getting adequate protein to support feel growth and brain development. 

Needed: How do you teach nutrition as part of your own training?

Carriage House: In our trainings we educate our doulas to understand that pregnancy and the postpartum period are nutritionally demanding. 

In pregnancy, if a doula client lacks key nutrients they may be at a higher risk for anemia, hypertension, low birth weight, and hemorrhage. These conditions put expectant people at a much higher risk of morbidity and mortality in an already unsupportive healthcare system that prioritizes profit over people. 

Postpartum depletion affects many new parents as sleep is limited and energy is low. We inform our doulas about the immediate postpartum period and the following months, and how many new parents experience brain fog, low energy, hair loss, anxiety, and overwhelm. 

We guide our clients with our nutrition recommendations and help them to gain confidence in learning body literacy, which includes nutrition. 

Needed: What are some things that mothers can do to help improve their own nutrition in pregnancy that you would like to share for different stages of pregnancy and postpartum?

Carriage House: In pregnancy, it’s recommended to increase calorie intake to around 300 extra calories a day. And for twin pregnancy, it’s 300 extra calories per baby! The food that you put into your body is fuel. During pregnancy it is important to fill up your tank with premium quality food. The digested nutrients will pass through the umbilical cord and into the baby's bloodstream. Most people start their pregnancy depleted in many nutrients. A prenatal supplement is typically suggested by your care provider which as doulas, we always have our favorite brands and recommendations. 

We let our clients know that another supplement that may be suggested during pregnancy is iron. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia. Anemia can also be caused by Vitamin B12 and Folate deficiencies. Your blood volume increases by 50 percent during pregnancy. Anemia is a condition where the body lacks enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. It can lead to extreme fatigue and weakness. Risks can include preterm labor and postpartum hemorrhage. Also, twin pregnancies can increase your chances of becoming anemic.

We encourage our families to EAT REAL FOOD! Processed foods and fast food can contain genetically modified grains and genetically engineered ingredients. The negative effects are still unknown, and they should be avoided if possible. Unfortunately, we know that many people have limited access to healthy food, which is part of a much bigger problem. 

Reducing sugar intake during pregnancy will decrease the risk of gestational diabetes and other pregnancy related complications. According to the World Health Organization a healthy diet during pregnancy contains adequate energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals, obtained through the consumption of a variety of foods, including green and orange vegetables, meat, fish, beans, nuts, pasteurized dairy products and fruit. 

A tip we share is: If you’re craving sweets, you need more protein! 

Another pregnancy tip: Dates 

The study, conducted in 2011 and published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has some really interesting results from comparing two groups of women: those who consumed six dates per day in the last four weeks of labor and those who did not.

In postpartum, we recommend that clients continue their prenatal vitamin for at least six weeks after the birth of the baby and then switch to a multivitamin with folic acid. We recommend eating a balanced and nutrient dense diet for postpartum healing.

If you are feeding your baby with your body, you will burn an extra 450-500 calories a day, so you will need to be putting back in nutrients to help avoid becoming depleted. 

We are huge fans of bone broth that has collagen in it, which helps accelerate healing, especially if you’ve had a cesarean birth. Collagen protein is also wonderful to accelerate healing in the postpartum period. 

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Paula James-Martinez, Filmmaker and Editorial Director

Paula James Martinez is a creative producer, filmmaker, and former fashion editor. She is the director and producer of film company Semi-Retired Productions, and in 2018, started working on her directorial debut on the documentary Born Free, which investigates the truth about birth and maternity in America. She has since founded a non-profit organization The Mother Lovers to raise awareness of the US maternal health crisis.