Alaska Native Birthworkers Community Birth Helper Services 

Indigenous people have supported each other during childbirth since time immemorial…

We have always helped each other during the ceremony that pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is. As peers, we share knowledge, support, and help hold sacred space to help a birthing person feel cared for, confident, and safe.

What is a Birth Helper/ Doula*

A birth helper is someone who provides continuous physical, emotional, spiritual, and informational support to a birthing person before, during, and after childbirth, and during the *full spectrum of reproductive health experiences as described below. A birth helper can be a valuable member to the birth team, in addition to the partner, family, labor nurse, midwife and/or doctor. As Alaska Native birth helpers, we support and center a family’s cultural practices. 

 

What does a Birth Helper do:

  • Share information and resources to help prepare for birth, postpartum, parenting

  • Provide one-to-one support during labor

    • be a continuous supportive presence

    • help to create a comfortable environment

    • provide reassurance

    • support birthing person’s decisions

    • help with comfort techniques

    • share support to entire family

  • Help with breastfeeding and postpartum support

  • Maintain ethical practice and confidentiality

 

A birth helper does not make any decisions for the birthing person, perform any clinical tasks, or access the birthing person’s private health information.

 

Benefits Research shows that birthing people who use a trained labor companion are:

  • More likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth (less likely to need Pitocin)

  • More likely to have a shorter labor than they would have otherwise

  • Less likely to have a cesarean birth (or a forceps/vacuum assisted vaginal birth)

  • Less likely to use any pain medication

  • More likely to have positive feelings about their childbirth experience

 

*Doula is a title given to the birth helper role in recent times. The word ‘doula’ comes from an ancient Greek word that means “female servant.” This is not a title commonly known in Alaska Native communities and not a word that we identify with. ANBC would like to use a title for this ancient role that feels more familiar to us. Until further discussions are had in our community to decide what that title should be, we will use the terms ‘birth helper,’ ‘prenatal/ labor/ postpartum (perinatal) support person,’ and ‘labor companion’ interchangeably. 

 

We offer *full spectrum or full circle support during the reproductive years. In addition to prenatal, labor, postpartum support, we will sit alongside you while trying to become pregnant, while trying not to become pregnant; during miscarriage, abortion, fetal or infant loss; during adoption; while accessing care as a LGBQT2s+ person; and during other rites of passage you would like support for (first menses, receiving traditional tattoo, last menses, etc). We do not claim to be specifically trained for or experienced in all phases and experiences of life, but will be with you, help hold space, and help connect you to resources as requested.

ANBC Perinatal Support Request Process

  1. Complete the request form below. (Link form, make sure it opens in a new tab) 

  2. ANBC will contact you within 5 days of request to schedule an intake meeting, if you don’t hear from us within this timeframe please email nativebirthworker@gmail.com.  We will do our best to match you with a volunteer support person and a back-up, but we cannot guarantee this.

  3. We will connect you with your support person, and you will reach out to each other to meet and begin planning.

  4. Your support person will meet with you 1-3 times prenatally as needed to get to know you and your family, prepare for birth, postpartum, parenting, and to co-create plans for how you would like them to support you.

  5. It is up to you to let your support person know when you are in labor and going to your birthing facility (hospital, birth center). Your support person is not part of your healthcare system and will have no way to know when you need them unless you notify them. 

    1. It is helpful to keep your support person in the loop when you think labor is starting, when you decide to go to your birthing facility or call your midwife over, and when you would like them to join you. 

    2. It may take 30-60 minutes for your support person to get to you once you request them.

  6. Your support person will stay with you until you are settled back in right after birth and have begun breastfeeding, usually 1-3 hours as needed.

  7. Your support person will check-in with you at least 24 hrs, 3 days, and 1 week after birth, and as needed through the first year.

  8. Let us know how it went! Complete the feedback form below.

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Pregnant Native families are invited to complete this request form if they are seeking support during their pregnancy, labor, postpartum, or through a loss. Completing this form does not guarantee that we will be able to match you with a volunteer, but we will try our best! Once received, an ANBC member will then reach out to meet with you to review the request and make a plan.

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If you received support from an ANBC volunteer, please share about your experience. This feedback is very important to help inform us on what is going well, what can be improved, and to demonstrate the impact of this service in our community.