Holistic vs. Evidence Based Doula Care: Do You Have to Choose One Path?
Since the beginning of time, women and birthing people have received both personal and professional support throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. It has only been over the last 100 years that modern, Westernized medicine has taken over. So, does that mean Western medicine is the answer? In this article, we’ll look the differences between Holistic (often Eastern) and Western journeys.
We will also examine the case for holistic and evidence-based doula care.
What is the difference between Holistic and Western approaches to pregnancy, labor, and postpartum?
Western practices –
Western medicine – A system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Also called allopathic medicine, biomedicine, conventional medicine, mainstream medicine, and orthodox medicine.
- Women and birthing people are viewed as patients; interventions may be discussed throughout the pregnancy. OB-GYNs can be excellent at managing high-risk or complicated pregnancies, including but not limited to preexisting medical conditions. Some midwives are also able to support a Western (and sometimes life-saving) approach. (We highly suggest finding a practice with both OB-GYN and midwifery support with complicated journeys. Ask us more about who we love by clicking here)
- When birthing in the hospital, you will have a labor and delivery nurse to support your journey. Your nurses job is to meet the needs of you (their patient), the midwife or doctor, and the hospital. Nurses are wonderful and resourceful members of the healthcare community! And, many nurses advocate for labor doulas in the birthing room. (For more details, read our blog post Labor Doulas & Nurses – Who’s Who?)
- In the United States, little-to-no postpartum support is received by the birthing person or family. Breastfeeding consultation can be requested in the hospital. Baby receives timed pediatric exams. Typically, the mother receives one postnatal visit with their OB/GYN at six weeks postpartum. If baby is born early or with special needs, the family may receive additional support from social workers and/or state agencies
Note: the United States is one of the only first world countries to not provide immediate and paid access to labor doulas, in-home lactation consultation, postpartum doula support, and pelvic floor therapy.
Holistic practices –
Holistic medicine – A way of care characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease
- Women and birthing people are viewed as clients; there is a partnership in your pregnancy, birthing and postpartum experience
- With midwifery care, mothers are seen at the 24 hour mark post-birth as well as at 2 weeks postpartum. Additional visits may be organized as needed. OB-GYNs can have a holistic approach to birth. (We’ve made a list of ones we love in the Phoenix area!)
- Doulas specialize in providing you – the mother or birthing person – with the emotional support and physical comforts you need. You (and your partner) are the the center of attention; and your complete wellness and well-being is attended to
- Support in the postpartum includes caring for the new mother and infant for a specified period of time in order to value and protect future capacity for mothering
Where do Doulas fit in?
Doulas provide informational and emotional support. Your Cherry Blossom Doula is well-versed in the evidence behind certain practices, including those that are holistic in nature. For example, you may be interested in a Western approach to your birth (for example, a medicated hospital birth). In this case, your Doula walks alongside you to make sure that you understand your options and receive the least amount of medical interventions possible – and can give you the statistics and resources you might need to make the best decision for you.
In many circumstances – if not all! – our families choose a doula for our knowledge based on our years of experience in supporting the normalization of birth and postpartum.
(Side note: Your decisions are always yours. And, we will always support you – unconditionally.)
What about postpartum support? I’m not interested in an herbal approach. Can a Doula still help me?
The short answer is – yes! While your Cherry Blossom Doulas receive continuing education in Ayurvedic and herbal supports for the postpartum, you get to choose what your postpartum journey looks like. By definition, Holistic is not necessarily herbal support (see above). Holistic Doula care is the ability of your postpartum doula to walk alongside all of you – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We say that postpartum doulas are like a mother, sister, auntie, and best friend. Our Doula’s will bring you a cup of tea, hold or feed baby while you shower or sleep, offer you resources when you need them most, and listen to you as you process your birth and experience of new or new-again parenting.
Questions about Doula care? We love the information provided by Evidence-Based Birth on the evidence for doulas. As always, we would love to hear from you too! Let us know if this article was helpful for your journey, and/or share about your experience with Doula care.
We’re so glad to be here with you.
Your Cherry Blossom Doulas
Hi! I’m Alyssa Leon. I lead Cherry Blossom Doula Services, LLC – an inclusive birth + postpartum doula team in Arizona; and mentor doulas in Arizona and beyond.