Originally opening in North Carolina, The Doula Xperience has now expanded services in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Its owner, Anita, who prefers to be referred to simply as “Anita the Doula,” is a Toledo native with a team of six certified doulas, all of whom provide non-judgemental support to women and their families. They offer full-spectrum doula services which include birth, postpartum, and bereavement services. The primary role of a doula is to provide emotional and educational support to women and their families to create a healthy and joyful birthing experience.
Doula services can include developing a birth plan, providing education on stress and coping tools, and being present at or after the birth of a child. Knowing that not all babies survive delivery and some are lost during pregnancy, Doula Xperience also provides bereavement support.
“Our services are custom for every client,” says Anita. “We empower our clients to schedule their own appointments. We can explain plans or interventions they receive from their medical team. We encourage women to take birth classes, and we make them aware of resources. We stress the importance of taking vitamins and eating well.”
Evidence Based Birthing Support
The benefits of doula services are evidence-based and include decreased low-birth weights, decreased birthing complications and a higher likelihood for breastfeeding. These outcomes are especially important for women of color and other marginalized communities who are experiencing higher maternal and infant mortality rates. The Doula Xperience offers inclusive support, recognizing that some women may be hesitant to reach out due to mental health or substance use disorders.
“We have a diversity in our personal and professional backgrounds. We also have lived experience; we literally live in the communities we serve. We’ve graduated from these schools. We have experience with these systems,” Anita says of serving in the greater Toledo area.
Support that comes to you
Services are provided wherever the family calls home. Postpartum services include home visits, even if it is in a shelter. “We provide support with “the firsts” — feeding and bathing. We can provide overnight support so the parents can get a full night’s rest. We can help change diapers to get them ready for feeding. This may also include light housekeeping for the baby or sibling, or helping with their laundry.” Anita explains.
Women can reach out for an initial consultation for services upon learning they are pregnant. Pregnancy does not always go as planned, and Anita encourages women to request services as soon as pregnancy is confirmed. “We’ve met some women who are due any day or already in the hospital, and that’s fine. But not all babies go to the due date, so if our services can be in place early on, we can also be there for support if the baby comes early, which is an emotionally trying time.”
While doula services are not free or covered by Medicaid in Ohio, Anita encourages women to reach out regardless of income. Their services are private pay, but Lucas County currently has grants to help cover these services for women who qualify. Lucas County is one of ten counties in Ohio with a focus on lowering the maternal and infant mortality rate. Lucas County continues to address infant and maternal health through the Lucas County Health Improvement Plan.
Addressing Racial Disparities
The Doula Xperience offers services to women of all races, but is also proud to provide representation for women of color.
With a glaring disparity of maternal mortality rates, opening a doula practice has been a long-term goal for Anita. The maternal mortality for Black women is 40 percent higher than their white counterparts. According to the CDC, 60 percent of all pregnancy related deaths are preventable.
Access to quality care and not being understood by medical professionals are two of the reasons women of color experience such different birth outcomes. Despite popular belief, studies have also shown that poverty is not a factor when it comes to disparities. Women of color with college degrees and higher incomes are still dying at higher rates than white women without high school diplomas when experiencing the same medical complications.
There can be a greater level of comfort knowing someone else in your support network has had similar experiences. “Women of color are not being heard. A lot of us have stories of trauma. We [The Doula Xperience] can be there as a patient advocate. We are not only trying to save women and babies, we are trying to help them be heard, regardless of race,” Anita shares.
For more information about The Doula Xperience or to schedule a consultation check them out online at doulaxperience.com.