Doctor Doula: Empowering Women of Color in Pregnancy and Postpartum
I didn’t seriously consider doulas to be a resource for black women like myself until I heard a lecture last year from one of our residents, Dr. Kimeshia Thomas. She is a doctor currently finishing her training in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California. Before becoming a doctor, Dr. Thomas was a doula. Prior to her lecture, my experience with doulas was only seeing them with white women in labor.
After Dr. Thomas’ lecture, I started searching for a doula but it was late in my pregnancy. I was far from family, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and I’d just moved almost 30 miles across Los Angeles County at 36 weeks pregnant. My mom wasn’t coming from out of town until 2 weeks after my due date, then after a one-month stay she had to go back home. Despite having a supportive partner and some really great friends, the thought of raising a newborn without a much outside support seemed daunting. A postpartum doula seemed to be the right solution for me.
I asked Dr. Thomas to talk about her journey to becoming a doula, and to help describe what a doula is. She took time out of her busy residency schedule to share her story below. Later this week, I’ll share my own personal experience with having a doula:
“My path towards becoming a doula was not conventional, but I feel like most non-traditional paths end up being the best experiences. On the verge of graduating from college I was lost. Considering a career in medicine, but not sure what that entailed I took a course that sparked my interest in maternal health. Desiring to expose myself to the field of OB/GYN I researched volunteer doula programs in my area and found the SFGH Doula program. Before I knew it I was supporting women in labor. However, not just any women, but those in need. Those who didn’t have any support system. These women I realized needed doulas most. It was during those nights as I supported those patients that I found my calling. Being an OB/GYN of color allows me to support and empower patients from low income and underserved backgrounds, and that passion was sparked during my time as a doula. Having a provider or labor support person who looks like you or is from a similar background can make a significant difference for patients.
If you’re wondering what is a doula the simple answer is a person who desires to help support/empower you during your pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period. They do this by encouraging you to ask questions about your care. They do this by being by your side during your entire delivery. And they do this by helping you through the breastfeeding process. Just to name a few examples. So, if you, a friend, or a family member is pregnant ask about a doula. And if you’re a person of color ask about a community based doula. They want to help make sure that you have the best possible birth experience, whatever that my look like, and so do I.” — By Dr. Kimeshia Thomas, fourth year resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California.