I’ve been asked why I offer my services for free for people who are 20 years old or younger.
It often comes up in doula conversations that offering free services devalues and minimises the role that doulas play in birth. And to a degree, I do agree with this notion; doulas DO play an important role for which, in most cases, they should be compensated.
However, the area I live in has a higher rate of teen pregnancy than the rest of the country.
Teenagers on the North-West Coast are getting pregnant at a much higher rate than the rest of the country.
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that young women in Devonport had the highest birth rates on the NW Coast, at 23.5 per 1000 births in 2015.
West Coast teens were close behind at 20 per 1000 and young Burnie / Ulverstone women had a birth rate of 19.1.The Advocate (6 May 2018)
The national average was 12.8, with Tasmania’s overall rate sitting at 15.4.
Many of these young women go without support, from the other parent of the child, their families, and their friends. They are isolated, often disadvantaged, and simply don’t have the means to pay for support services such as a doula.
In addition, as I have previously posted, the public education system doesn’t give young women the information they need for if and when they do find themselves pregnant. We’re told how babies are made, we’re told how to prevent pregnancy and STDs, but we’re not told what happens to our bodies when we do conceive.
There’s a huge breakdown in our system that leaves these young women stranded with very little knowledge, and few people for them to turn to who don’t have biases and judgement against their situation.
As a trained doula, and a mum myself, I understand what happens in pregnancy and birth. I understand the fear of the unknown.
This is why it is important to me to serve these young women. This is why I do it for free. I can’t sit back knowing that young women across the Coast are going without the support they need. It goes against my morals as a woman, a mother, and a human being.