Social media is growing at an amazing speed and the information that is posted and shared reaches across the planet in seconds. It’s lovely to be able to see what our friends and family are doing if they live in a different countries to us and it’s great to be able to learn about research and studies from people across the globe.
Facebook is now mainly used by ‘older’ users as teenagers have moved on to quicker platforms for sharing, where pictures, videos and voice message can easily be sent to one another. Many doulas use Facebook for marketing, building their profile and connecting with other doulas, both locally and globally.
However, Facebook is not really a safe place to share as everything that is posted belongs to Facebook and not to the person who is sharing. If Facebook wanted to use the data or changes settings, what has been posted in a secret or closed group could potentially be shared with everyone.
Lately, Doula UK has had to have a close look at what is being shared on Facebook in the Doula UK Members' secret group. A request was posted asking all doulas to make sure they had “permission to post” or PTP for short, before posting questions related to their clients. But what difference does this actually make and what is ‘breach of confidentially’ anyway? I did use to post on Facebook about going to births etc. but stopped doing so after reflecting on why I was doing it. Here are my thoughts on the current issues that I think all doulas should consider before engaging in social media.
Asking help with specific issues
So, for example, if a doula has a client who is a survivor of abuse and the doula posts: “My current client is a survivor of abuse and I would like some ideas on how I can support her”. In this case, the doula might feel that she hasn't broken client confidentiality as no names have been mentioned. However, what we need to consider is that perhaps other doulas in the same area went for interviews with this client and know that this particular doula got hired by her. What if the client is a Doula UK doula herself and sees her doula posting asking questions relating to her? These things might seem far-fetched but we really need to consider everything before we post anything on social media. A better way to post a question on Facebook could be “What tips would you give someone who is supporting a survivor of abuse?” This is more general and could be a question on behalf of someone else, it could be for the doula herself or it could just be a general request for information. It’s it not clear exactly why the doula is asking or who she is referring to. Simply leaving a name out does not mean that confidentiality has been maintained because if we say "my client", we have identified the person we are talking about.
It might be worth asking ourselves some questions before making doula work related announcements on Facebook or Twitter. We all know and can see that social media could quite easily become a place for showing off, publicly endorsing or even shaming. When we as doulas make announcements about having supported at a birth or that we’re on our way to support someone, we might be giving more information away than we intended and this information could be read by someone that knows who we’re referring to. This could especially be the case if it is an unusual situation, such as a multiple birth or if we state a specific location, naming a hospital or birth centre. Ask yourself, do I really need to tell everyone so that they can see that I’m busy working as a doula? If you do want to tell someone, contact your Doula UK Mentor or a colleague at an appropriate time to discuss things with her. The Doula UK forum is also a much safer place than any social media platform for sharing.
Wanting help when at a birth
I understand what it can feel like to be at a birth and sitting there with your head in your hands wondering what on earth you can do to stop things spiralling out of control. We can’t help going into ‘fix it mode’ when something unfolds in a birth and we want to protect our clients. However, this is a time to tune into that doula ‘gut feeling’ and also remember what our actual role as a doula is. Doulas are NOT there to fix or rescue anyone! When a doula leaves the room, or even stays in the room to send questions about what to do via social media, she will momentarily ‘leave’ and no longer be totally present with what is going on. She will tune out of the environment around her and loose her gut feelings as the fear of ‘not doing enough’ takes over and her calm and nurturing presence will fade.
If we go by the premise that doulas do not do, we simply are, we can trust that whatever our actions are and as long as we stay totally present with our client, she will hopefully still have a good memory of the birth of her baby!
By letting ourselves feel helpless and unsure as a doula, we might be adding to any feelings of failure and that feeling that everything is going wrong. This is the time when it is REALLY important to stay strong and totally there for our clients. It is NOT the time to start doubting whether your very presence makes a different and think that you need to get more information from more experienced doulas. A doula learns to be self-sufficient supporting clients and learns to listen to her heart, head and gut feeling in equal measures by being forced to do so during difficult and challenges birth experiences. By removing herself from the situation and asking others doulas for help, she is missing out on this part of her doula journey. Of course, you should talk things over afterwards with your DUK Mentor or trusted colleague to ensure that you are able to reflect and learn from the experience.
Speaking to other doulas
It is true that when we debrief or talk to our colleagues about a birth or postnatal experience with a client, there might be a degree of confidentiality breached. However, this is different as it is not shared in a public space and most likely, there will be a confidentiality agreement between the two doulas, especially between a Doula UK Mentor and her mentees. What we share, face to face, or in groups, should be agreed beforehand to remain confidential and not spoken about outside of that group.
It is extremely important for doulas to belong to a network where they can support and nurture each other. We cannot care for others if we don’t get cared for ourselves and it would be unfair on our clients if we weren’t able to off-load some of the things that we experience and bear witness to as doulas. Keeping client confidentiality does not mean we cannot share and learn from each other however, we must always be mindful about what we share and how we share it on social media.
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.