Aboriginal Doula Training to Be Offered

Training will take place in early March for doulas, who provide new mothers support before and/or after labor.

The first training session of the year for aboriginal doulas will take place from March 4 through 8 in Port Alberni, British Columbia. Training, travel, accommodations and course materials will be provided. February 24 is the deadline to apply.

Training will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 4 and from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from the fifth through the eighth.

The goal is to bring birthing support practices back into the hands of women by lending emotional, physical and spiritual support to expectant, laboring and new mothers in order to give families “the best possible pregnancy and birth experience” within the context of existing indigenous tradition and culture, according to a statement from the First Nations Health Council. More information, plus application materials, are available at the First Nations Health Council website.

Such training is in line with findings of a 2010 report, Aboriginal Doulas for Aboriginal Women: An Action Plan for Bringing Traditional Birthing Support Practices Back into the Hands of Women, released in June 2010 by the Aboriginal Doula Advisory Committee, under the auspices of the Provincial Health Services Authority of British Columbia. A pdf of the report is available here.

Doulas can greatly enhance the aboriginal birthing experience, especially for women who are giving birth far from their home communities, the National Aboriginal Health Association (NAHO) says. They go by many names.

“In indigenous communities, the name doula is often replaced with another term,” NAHO said in a flyer explaining what doulas are. In a health facility in St. Paul, Minnesota, for instance, they call themselves Turtle Women, NAHO said, because the “turtle symbolizes creation.” In one British Columbia community they referred to themselves as aunties, NAHO said. In Kanesatake the title was Ka’nistenhsera Teiakontihsnie, or She Who Helps the Mother.

“For First Nations families, doulas have the potential to make positive contributions to situations where women are birthing away from their home communities,” NAHO said. “They can act as communicators and advocates for the birthing family, and can facilitate incorporating traditional practices into the childbirth process, if the family desires this.”