On Abortion Doula-ing

Posted on 9.26.2012 by Lily

I found this pretty awesome post recently about how to help a woman in labor. It’s written by a trained birth doula, and I totally want to be a birth doula now too. Besides childbirth just being fucking cool, I’m pretty sure that being with women through labor and delivery would give me mad skills to improve how I help women through their abortions, too.

See, I’m officially a counselor, but I like to think that the term “patient advocate” describes what I do better than counseling. I try however I can to make patients’ experiences with us the most comfortable and positive they can possibly be, and that goes beyond the counseling room. One way I do that is by being a support person through the actual surgery for patients who want it - basically, acting as an abortion doula.

There is no one way that patients experience abortion. As many people as there are who choose abortions, there are experiences with it. And particularly with local (awake) abortions, I’ve been amazed by how dramatically different two people’s experiences can be. For some women, an abortion is intensely painful. Others barely seem to notice what’s going on between their legs. Most, I would say, are somewhere in the middle.

But for every kind of patient, an abortion doula can make an incredible difference. Just as there is no one abortion experience, there is no one way to be a patient’s support throughout her abortion. Some patients want to know exactly what is going on during the procedure, and so I’ll explain every step of the process, what the doctor will do next, and how it will feel. Other patients would rather stay distracted, so we make small talk. Some patients want a hand to squeeze, and I’ll coach other patients on breathing through the procedure.

I try to be there for them before and after the abortion, too. Our rapport begins in the counseling room, but if I can I’ll try to be the one to bring the patient into the OR and help her get set up. It’s nice to have that person be someone the patient already knows a little, rather than yet another new face. And I’ll try to spend some time with them in recovery.

It makes an enormous difference. And patients are incredibly grateful.

Abortion care everywhere should have the doula philosophy at its core. It should underline every. thing. we do.