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A Doula's Touch: Unravelling the Layers of Birth Trauma

Updated: Sep 4, 2023


Woman drinking tea talking to her doula.

Being a doula is a calling that resonates deep within the heart. It's about being present, compassionate, and supportive during one of life's most profound moments: childbirth. But what happens when that beautiful moment is shadowed by trauma? How do we, as doulas, help our clients peel back the layers and find healing? This journey is complex, delicate, and profoundly human.


The Complexity of Birth Trauma

Birth trauma isn't a singular event; it's a multifaceted experience that can linger long after the birth itself. It's like an onion, each layer revealing something new, something deeper, something more personal.

  • The Outer Layer: The immediate reactions, often filled with shock, disbelief, or numbness.

  • The Middle Layers: The evolving emotions, such as guilt, anger, sadness, or anxiety, that may develop over time.

  • The Inner Core: The deeply personal beliefs, memories, and meanings that shape the individual's experience of the trauma.

Understanding these layers is essential for doulas as we guide our clients through their unique healing journey.


The Doula's Compassionate Approach

As doulas, our role extends beyond the birthing room. We are companions, listeners, and guides. Our approach is compassionate, empathetic, and deeply human.

  1. Holding Space: We create a safe and nurturing environment where emotions can be explored without judgment. This space allows for vulnerability and authenticity, where healing can begin.

  2. Listening with Empathy: We lend an empathetic ear, hearing the stories and feelings that need to be shared. Our presence validates and acknowledges the pain, making it less isolating.

  3. Guiding Reflection: We help our clients reflect on their experiences, finding meaning and understanding. This process can be therapeutic, allowing for acceptance and growth.

  4. Supporting Healing: We walk alongside our clients as they find their way back to themselves, offering support, encouragement, and love.


Debriefing: A Healing Conversation

Debriefing is more than a technique; it's a conversation. It's about sitting down with our clients and saying, "Tell me your story. I'm here for you."

  • Understanding: We seek to understand not just what happened, but how it felt, what it meant. We ask open-ended questions, encouraging exploration and insight.

  • Sharing and Connecting: Sometimes, we share our own experiences or those of others, building a connection and normalising the feelings. This shared experience fosters a sense of community and empathy.

  • Healing Through Dialogue: Through these conversations, healing begins. The layers are peeled back, and the core is revealed. It's a process of rediscovery, reconnection, and renewal.

The Importance of Self-Care for Doulas

Being a doula is emotionally demanding, and self-care is vital. We must also peel back our own layers, understanding our feelings and reactions. Regular reflection, support from fellow doulas, and self-care practices ensure that we can continue to be present for our clients.


Being a doula is a privilege and a responsibility. We are invited into people's lives at a time of great vulnerability and joy. But when trauma casts a shadow, our role takes on a new dimension. We become the guides, the listeners, the healers.


Peeling back the layers of birth trauma is a delicate and profound process. It's not about fixing or solving; it's about understanding, connecting, and healing. It's about being human, being there, being a doula.


In our hands, we hold the power to support, to empathise, and to heal. With our hearts, we connect, we understand, and we love. This is the essence of being a doula, and it's a journey filled with complexity, beauty, and profound humanity.

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1 Comment


Tamara Mairowicz
Tamara Mairowicz
Aug 24, 2023

And sometimes the trauma hasn't even been acknowledged. Often it's dismissed with 'we got our perfect baby, so...' This doesn't mean the trauma isn't there. It may also be that a woman isn't ready to face it until a long time after her birth.

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