What is a doula?
At this year's SmartParenting Convention, PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) spoke to the women behind the country's first and only doula organization so far, the Pinay Doulas Collective.
Doula Pat, who spoke to PEP.ph on the group's behalf, said a doula offers "emotional, physical, and informational support to women during their fertility stage or yung gusto pa lang magka-baby, during their pregnancy—so prenatal, during labor and birth, and postpartum."
She emphasized that doulas were not limited to mothers and mothers-to-be.
"It's more specifically for women," she continued. "Fertility doesn’t really mean na gusto mo lang maging buntis.
"Puwede ring general na ayoko mabuntis muna or general health because if you know more about your fertility, you would know what to expect.
"Kung may problema, alam mo kaagad ang sasabihin mo sa doktor.
"'Kaya pala ganito nararamdaman ko because kapag ino-observe ko period ko, ganito yung parang mga symptoms…' ganyan."
Doula Pat pointed out a doula should not be mistaken for a midwife, "We do not do anything medical.
"Hindi kami nag-bi-BP [blood pressure], we don’t do IE [internal examination]. As in, parang, well-being talaga.
"If you can compare, parang, midwife or the doctor is the waist down. So, kami, waist up. So parang encouragement, touch therapy, massage…"
The women of Pinoy Doulas Collective began as friends.
They met in a breastfeeding class and ended up becoming counselors themselves.
Doula Pat remarked, "We learned through our counseling na a lot of the breastfeeding concerns, new moms or even second-timers, when they breastfeed, we can trace it back to their pregnancy.
"Before magkaroon pa ng [breastfeeding concerns], nakabantay na kami. Maga-guide na namin."
From there, they gradually established their roots as doulas.
"We all went under training 2015. And then, yung talagang nagsipag na kami late 2016-early last year."
So far, the Philippines does not offer formal doula training; but all the women behind the group had received training and earned their certification.
For Pinay Doulas Collective, the overall mission of the group is to rebuild strong support systems among women.
Doula Pat related, "Yun yung parang ini-encourage namin. Kailangan support-support tayong lahat na mga women, kasi unlike before, in one barangay, magkakakilala yan.
"Kapag may manganganak, lahat ng mga lola, mga mommy, naka-support diyan.
"Ngayon, lalo na condo living, kilala mo ba kapitbahay mo? If isa ka sa condo, manganganak ka, kaya mo bang katukin yung next door [neighbor] mo na, 'Please, samahan mo ako.'
"Unlike before, [having a baby] is really a community event in a way... ang mga doulas before yung mga lola, the tita who underwent the same.
"Naging pregnant, nanganak. So, sila yung magsu-support along with the kumadrona."
Learm more about their group here.