Transformational Birth Support Coach vs. Doula

In 2005, while I was trained as a transformational life coach (see final subsection below), it became clear to me that prenatal coaching has got to be the foundation of successful leadership in the field of birth support.  I am certain that the coaching principles and strategies elevate birth givers’ ability to cope and conduct themselves throughout the journey of pregnancy and birth, and elicit birth givers’ accountability to their desired experience, and as a result of those will increase their satisfaction levels with the whole journey. And so, immediately after graduating, I began integrating coaching strategies into the field of birth support. About a decade after implementing coaching into my birth support practice, I felt ready to publish this method in my book The Art of Coaching for Childbirth.

Since the seventies, those who provide education and support to birthing individuals have all been called ‘Labor Coaches’. In that group are childbirth educators who teach about childbirth and deliver a body of knowledge, usually in a group setting. Also in that group are doulas who are trained to provide emotional, physical, and informational continuous support throughout the birth. We all got used to thinking about childbirth as an event in which our role is to help the birth giver cope with labor strains while providing information, reassurance, and applying comfort measures.

On the other hand, coaching, a growing industry generating $11 billion in the USA, is an entirely different practice that stands by itself. It is the practice of leading competent and healthy individuals to optimally perform in an area of life in which they want to achieve a change or accomplish some goals.

Transformational Birth support coaches that are trained with the Birth Coach Method, likewise, are also trained to coach expectant individuals towards achieving their desired birth experience. 

Transformational Birth Support Coaching is the pathway to birth givers’ engagement and autonomy. It is the road to the partnership sought between birthing individuals, their families, and their birth support providers.

The integration of coaching into birth support is my mission. I established the Birth Coach Method with the goal of creating programs that lead birth professionals of all types – doulas, childbirth educators, L&D nurses, and others to integrate the coaching principles, strategies, and coaching relationships into their practice. This integration helps to resolve many significant dilemmas and challenges. It is the foundation of birth givers’ autonomy and empowerment. It is the pathway to birth givers’ true engagement, and it is the road to the partnership sought between birthing individuals, their families, and their birth support providers – medically trained or not.

Why is transformative prenatal coaching the key to birth givers’ satisfaction?

Observing my birth support practice from a coaching perspective helped me realized for the first time that having a natural childbirth is not at all ‘natural’ for my birth clients. Instead, childbirth essentially requires birth givers to perform physically, emotionally, and mentally in a way that is much different from their everyday lives. Because the process of childbirth is anything but ‘natural’ for millennials, birth givers who want to have healthy vaginal births must practice new ways of being with and responding to the strains of pregnancy and birth. Leading individuals to adopt new perspectives and skills is the main goal of the coaching process. a core principle in coaching. Therefore, it seems that transformational coaching and childbirth support must be infused.

Additional to the adoption of new perspectives and strategies, the coaching process is geared toward eliciting clients’ accountability to what they say they want – to their goals, wishes, or their desired experiences. Whether they coach in sports or performing arts, or in the domains of relationships or parenting, areas of practice must be assigned to the coaching client during the process. For this reason, birth support coaches have to begin the coaching process prenatally and help their clients to take steps towards achieving their desired birth experience. We conduct a series of prenatal coaching sessions with five goals known as the five ‘C’s of birth support coaching:

I’ve identified prenatal coaching as the pathway to doulas’ successful leadership and birth givers’ high satisfaction

  1. Facilitating clarity of the client’s beliefs and thoughts.
  2. Eliciting clients’ confidence
  3. Assessing and strengthening clients’ level of commitment to their process and goals.
  4. Facilitating strong convictions of our clients in regards to their way and truth.
  5. Allowing our clients to be (in) charge of their journey and birth experience.

Do Birth Support Coaches and Doulas achieve different goals Prenatally?

In order to clarify the differences between transformational birth support coaches and birth doulas, I put together a partial list of goals that birth coaches achieve by conducting prenatal coaching sessions. As you can see, some of the goals on the list are marked as goals that can be achieved by both doulas and birth support coaches. However, other goals on the list can be achieved only by integrating the coaching principles and strategies we teach birth support professionals.

Both Birth Support Coaches and Doulas:

  • Provide resources and information.
  • Address personal circumstances and concerns of the client and their partners.
  • Finalize the birth preference list and empower clients to initiate an open discussion with their medical caregiver.

Only Birth Support Coaches:

  • Facilitate clarity about the client’s goals and wishes for her birth and the motivation behind them.
  • Establish open communication in order to distinguish fears from reality and truth from myth about childbirth.
  • Assist clients in revealing areas of concern, challenge, or internal resistances that are currently hidden and resolve them.
  • Allow clients to adopt positive perspectives and mindsets about their nearing birth by means of reframing, asking coaching questions, affirmations, anchoring, and more.
  • Provide ongoing opportunities to prenatally practice labor support tools and comfort measures like breathing techniques, visualization, and positions.
  • Assess and elicit clients’ accountability for their positive and healthy process.

Prenatal coaching prepares birth givers to conduct themselves beautifully throughout their birth

This is just a partial list of the goals you might be able to achieve when you learn how to coach, and what I want you to mostly get by looking at this list is that coaching always comes before the performance! Birth is just like a marathon run or mountain climbing in that it requires physical and emotional performance levels. Therefore, the birth support coaching process that is tailored around the individual’s unique process will prenatally prepare birth givers who later will conduct themselves beautifully throughout their birth.

Childbirth educators will continue to inform and deliver knowledge. Birth doulas will continue to provide physical and emotional and informational support throughout childbirth. Those who learn to integrated Transformational Birth Support Coaching and provide prenatal coaching sessions will be able to utilize the high level of readiness and strong convictions throughout the birth. Birth support coaches can also tap into their clients’ motivation and use words and phrases that most resonate with their clients to help them overcome moments of crisis.

Birth support coaches gain their leadership position, not because they are ‘expert n the field of Natural, healthy or vaginal childbirth. Our leadership relies on the partnership e build with our clients. We see the clients as experts in their own lives and help them reach their goals and potential.

How did I get to Coaching?

As a birth doula, I was trained in a yearlong program to provide continuous emotional, physical, and informational support to birth givers, their partners, and their families. I learned an extensive body of theoretical knowledge about birth and some basic knowledge about the postpartum period and breastfeeding. I was trained to apply comfort measures and labor support tools to laboring individuals.

However, I find it interesting that even the extensive training program I attended in 1997 felt insufficient to me after a decade of practicing. Throughout this decade of practice, the rates of medical interventions and cesareans have increased in the US. Something was clearly missed by the active birth movement, in childbirth education, and in the doula practice.

Because I lacked sufficient strategies to successfully lead birth givers towards healthy and positive birth experiences, I enrolled in a yearlong transformational coaching training in 2007. And now I incorporate the same coaching techniques and strategies when I train other birth support professionals in the Birth Coach Method so that they too can achieve the goals with their clients that are listed above.

If you are a birth professional (doula, prenatal yoga teacher, etc.) and wish to learn the same coaching techniques that health and wellness coaches have found to be so successful in their practices, only learn how to apply it coaching expectant couples, we invite you to enroll in our Coaching for Pregnancy and Birth Certification Course.

If you are considering a career as a doula, please check out our online doula training or our Bay Area doula training in which we also teach coaching strategies.

If you are an expectant parent looking for birth support and would like a doula certified by Birth Coach Method, let us know and we will let you know if there is one in your area.

Neri Life-Choma

doula profession, prenatal, training

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