This is Infertility is a bi-weekly podcast where we fuse narrative storytelling with experience and science to give you a new perspective on what it’s really like to go through a family building journey. Each episode dives into the emotional, physical, and financial burdens carried by those who experience infertility on their path to parenthood. Be it IVF, IUI, egg freezing, surrogacy, adoption, etc., the path is never the same and it can be long, painful, and lonely. It’s our mission to give those struggling a platform to be heard, a community connection, and an opportunity to raise awareness of the 1 in 8 who, for many reasons, struggle with infertility.
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This is Infertility

Episode 177: The Role of Doulas

Today’s episode delves into a supportive yet often overlooked contributor to the birthing process and much more: the role of doulas.

Our guest, Latham Thomas, Founder of Mama Glow, elaborates on the diverse responsibilities of doulas, ranging from offering emotional and physical support in co-creating your birth plan, to advocating for individuals and facilitating communication between patients and healthcare providers. She explains what to keep in mind when finding the right doula for you. And highlights how doulas work to address birth disparities within marginalized communities.

Latham shares Mama Glow’s mission of democratizing doula support, which aims to transform maternal care on what she describes as the childbearing continuum.

Guest: Latham Thomas, Founder of Mama Glow

Host: Dan Bulger, Progyny

For more information, visit Progyny’s Podcast page and Progyny’s Education page for more resources. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, @ThisisInfertilityPodcast and use the #ThisisInfertility. Have a question, comment, or want to share your story? Email us at thisisinfertility@progyny.com. 

This podcast is also available as a video!

Here are some highlights from this episode:

What is a doula?

02:57 – 05:38

Latham Thomas: A doula is a non-clinical care support that provides emotional support, physical support, education, partner support, advocacy tools, and really helps you to navigate this most powerful and yet vulnerable time in your life. It’s having that kind of companion person who you can depend on, who believes in you, and who can also support you in anticipating your needs. And doulas are wonderful as we look at the health care system, because they help facilitate optimal communication between care providers and their patients. They are there to also ensure that everyone involved is on the same page in terms of information flow. They’re good at helping to demystify the information that comes from the doctor, answer your questions, and helping you come up with what’s called a birth plan. We like to call it birth preferences because plans never go as you would expect. A document can help you to think about like, “If I were to be presented with a cesarean section, even though my preference is to have a vaginal delivery, what would I like in case of that option, right? Do I want my baby in the room or in the nursery? What are my plans for infant feeding? What are my plans for recovery.” And so really mapping that process so that when it comes time to make a decision, you’re not confronted with information for the first time and having to make a choice under pressure, but really feeling empowered to make those choices because the doula is there to set you up to succeed.

Why doulas are critical

05:50 – 06:47

Dan Bulger: All of this is important right on the surface. But when you dig deeper into the true picture of maternal health in this country, the role of the doula begins to reveal itself as critical.

Latham Thomas: I think that’s really critical as we think about the times that we’re navigating, where, you know, we have birth disparities in the United States that impact African American women disproportionately. And so, when we think about their needs, more specifically, then we understand that we have to look at this through the lens of care for the most marginalized communities. And so, there’s deep listening involved, there’s advocating involved, there’s really understanding some of the unique barriers to care. And so, doulas are really wonderful in being able to surface those needs, tend to those needs, and also enlist the care team, what I like to call the birth village, in providing adequate support, through walls.

Finding the right doula for you

09:09 – 11:17

Latham Thomas: When thinking about hiring a doula. We want to make sure that we find the right person for our family. It really comes down to trusting your instincts about their energy. So much of what you’ll encounter is people sharing their backgrounds, their stories, or histories or accolades, and all of that stuff is really important… but it really comes down to how does that person make you feel. If that person makes you feel amazing, if it felt like you were talking to your best friend.

Latham Thomas: So, a couple of ways you can go about it. And number one is by recommendation. So, you can talk to people. Chat with a couple folks that your friends with and say, “Hey, I want to hear about your experience with your doulas. Can you share anything about them?” That’s one pathway. A second pathway is going the agency route. So, trying a reputable organization. Mama Glow, for instance, provides a doula matching service, including for private pay clients, for insurance, as well as for pro bono clients on the Mama Glow Foundation side. So, you can get matched with somebody who meets your preferences that way, and then you just put it in the hands of the experts, and they look at what your needs are, and then they help you match that way. And then another way is through working in Nurse-Family Partnership, or working with your own doctor or your own midwife and talking to them and saying, “Are there people that you work with more specifically?” And typically, a doctor might have a doula that they work with, or a midwife might have a cadre of doulas that they work with more frequently.

Vetting and questions for a doula

13:16 – 14:26

Latham Thomas: Leave that conversation, knowing something really important about them and their work. But you want to be asking where they were educated, where they learned to practice how long they’ve been in practice. Typically, how many clients do they take at a time? What does their care package look like? Typically, a doula will have a standard package of services. And that might look like anything from three prenatal visits, coverage at your birth, labor support leading up to your birth, early postpartum support, and then like maybe three postnatal visits, that might be in their birth doula package. And so those are separate pathways. Birth is one pathway, postpartum is another, but sometimes people will do both.

What is Mama Glow?

17:13 – 18:46

Latham Thomas: Mama Glow is a global maternal health and education platform that is committed to serving global community of doulas and nurse care managers and training people who will be on the front lines to support clients along the reproductive life course more specifically, the childbearing continuum. We offer doula training programs and advanced skills trainings for people working in hospital settings in home births, settings, and birth centers. And we also design programs for companies like CVS Health where we created a nurse care manager program and do the competency for CEU credits. And then we also train nurses in health care systems so that they can have doula skills and bring those into the labor and delivery floors. And so, our goal is to democratize doula support and services and ensure that people who are encountering and working with doulas can work with them in that capacity. And that also really meets the needs of the clients that we’re supporting. And so, it’s all about centering folks who are most marginalized and making sure that we meet their needs and ensuring that we also meet the needs of the doulas who are serving and bringing so much energy and time to supporting people who are at this powerful threshold in their lives.
Dan Bulger

Host

Dan Bulger
Producer at Progyny

Dan has been in the healthcare industry for the past ten plus years as a multimedia content producer. Better known as ‘Video Dan’ he has interviewed numerous doctors, patients and other experts in the world of fertility. He’s also the producer for this podcast, This is Infertility and the producer behind the Progyny YouTube Channel which features interviews with dozens of the nation’s leading fertility specialists. On a personal note Dan’s parents started fostering kids when he was four years old, and he considers himself a proud older brother to over 100 foster children.

Latham Thomas

Guest

Latham Thomas
Founder Mama Glow + Mama Glow Foundation

Latham Thomas is the founder of Mama Glow, a global maternal health and education platform serving birthing people along the childbearing continuum. Latham was appointed Visiting Professor of the Practice of Gender and Sexuality Studies for the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University, where the Mama Glow Doula Training program is embedded as a course at Brown. Mama Glow supports families during the fertility period, pregnancy, birth and postpartum offering hand-holding through their bespoke doula services.

The Mama Glow Doula Homeschool professional training program provides education and empowers birth workers around the world through work force development. Mama Glow launched the inaugural Doula Expo in 2021, known as ‘Coachella for Birth workers”, it’s a first-of-it’s-kind, festival for birth workers and caregivers, centering education, networking, business development and economic empowerment.

Latham is a co-founder of the Mama Glow Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit committed to advancing reproductive justice and birth equity through education, advocacy and the arts. She serves on the Kate Spade New York Social Impact Council, where she helps to increase access to mental health support for women and girls. Named one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, Latham has served as a doula for clients including: Alicia Keys, Anne Hathaway, Ashley Graham, DJ Khaled, Rebecca Minkoff, Tamera Mowry, and more. She is a graduate of Columbia University and author of book two best-selling books; Own Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living And Crowning The Queen Within and Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy.

Music From This Episode:

Artist: Kai Engel
Track: Brand New World
URL: https://freemusicarchive.org/