Due to the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, many doulas began offering virtual doula support. While virtual doula support grew in popularity this year, it’s actually a service some doulas have been providing for years.
Given the reach of technology, and more hands-on partner support, virtual doula support provides a wonderful service to clients. While in-person doula support obviously has its benefits, virtual doula support is a great way to provide support to clients regardless of any restrictions.
Whether you’re wondering about virtual support purely to care for clients during covid-19 restrictions, or you’re planning to add this to your regular services, here are our top FAQs about virtual doula support:
#1: What Is Virtual Doula Support?
Perhaps you’ve heard of virtual doula support but you’re not quite sure what it entails. Truthfully, it can actually look like a lot of different things. Each client’s needs, preferences, and restrictions may vary.
For many, virtual doula support looks like a zoom, Google hangouts or Facetime support. Just as many doulas typically offer an interview or consult, and then around two or so prenatal visits, virtual doulas offer these as well. Depending on your local restrictions, these may be done in-person or strictly virtually.
During prenatal visits, many of the same things occur virtually as they would if you were in person. Doulas often provide a listening ear for concerns, brief overview of what to expect, and learn more about what a client’s preferences are.
When it comes to actual labor, again dependent upon your local restrictions, some doulas offer in-person support at the client’s home. Then, when the client prepares to go into the hospital, they offer virtual support.
If local restrictions, geography or preference have you as a completely virtual doula, you’ll likely spend time offering support via a video call. You might also be used only for text or phone support. It’s going to depend on how labor unfolds, client preferences and just what they find most beneficial.
Just as with any birth a doula needs to be flexible, a doula providing virtual doula support must be flexible. Communication with your client about their preferences is important as their preferences may change as labor progresses.
#2: What Does Virtual Doula Support Look Like?
As you saw above, it really varies based on restrictions, preferences and how things unfold. The good news? Most of us are video call professionals by now! This means doing what we typically do for clients should be a fairly easy transition to the screen.
While it’s harder to demonstrate, you can have an assistant or use a doll to teach clients positioning, options, and comfort techniques. It’s a great way to help their support person become comfortable and confident in providing hands on support and encouraging words.
In some ways, the virtual doula becomes an encouragement for the laboring mom and a coach for the support person. Remind the laboring mom she’s doing great, inquire about how she feels, and then guide their support person in providing that physical support.
You can support with guided relaxation and visualizations for comfort. You can provide lots of position suggestions. And ultimately you remind the client she is doing wonderfully!
Being virtual also makes it easier to remind your clients to advocate for themselves and remind them of their options. As a doula, it’s out of your scope to question the healthcare providers but you can guide your client in asking questions. You can help your client make informed decisions by providing evidenced based information and support.
Providing virtual doula support might look like:
- Providing extra support and prenatal education
- Making and loaning out birth bags which include commonly used doula items like a rebozo, tennis ball, rice sock, etc.
- Offering an extra prenatal session for their birth partner to help prepare them for offering physical and emotional support
- Giving extra handouts or having more discussions about birth options, informed decision making and more
- Help parents understand they can be an active participant in their care. Remind them to keep open lines of communication with their midwife or doctor so they can make truly informed decisions they’re confident in
- Remind them to check with their birthing facility often as guidelines on visiting policies and such frequently change
- Be on call as you normally would and be ready to video chat, take a call, or quickly respond to texts
- The support person may want to wear earbuds so they can chat with you and easily hear your instructions with the least amount of distraction for the laboring woman (great option during transition)
- Some doulas and clients are comfortable with and have the midwife or doctor’s okay to have in-person support at home. If that’s the case, some doulas provide more traditional doula support before the client goes to the hospital
- Let clients know you’re available and holding space. They’re likely to stay in contact, but you can text to check in and remind them occasionally you’re available if they need. It’s important to have the support person’s number as they’re more likely to be checking their devices.
During The Postpartum Period
- Check in and allow her to process her birth story if she desires. Let her share the positive, the scary, whatever feelings she has so she can process the experience without judgement
- Be available for common questions and concerns and know where to refer for any questions which fall outside your scope
- Provide a video call if desired to help with initiating feeding, or to answer common feeding questions
- Hold space and remind your clients about the common postpartum adjustments and expected newborn behaviors
While virtual doula support is less hands on, it still provides excellent support for new and expectant parents.
#3: Will Clients Value Virtual Doula Support?
As a doula, you know that it’s important to provide valuable services to your clients. While doula work is a passion, it’s also a career. Doulas can’t typically afford to work for free, in-person or virtually.
The good news, as mentioned above, many of us are used to and comfortable with video communication. It’s likely that your current and prospective clients have gotten used to doing many tasks virtually.
Given the lack of in-person availability in many places, and personal preferences for extra precautions, many expectant parents are seeking support. Parents are finding virtual support invaluable and are willing to cover doula fees. Having a professional support on call for your questions, concerns and to guide you through the birth experience is an excellent service. It can help provide a calming presence during these hectic times.
Many parents are extra anxious about giving birth during covid-19 concerns, making your support even more valuable than you might be aware of!
Not a trained doula yet? Be sure to learn more about our professional doula trainings which will prepare you for both in-person and virtual doula support.