Allie’s Story: How I Support Pregnant Teens
By Alexx Engles, 18, Contributor
Originally Published: November 23, 2011
Revised: March 7, 2017
Though the United States has the highest teen birth rates in the industrialized world, teen parents and parents-to-be often find themselves stigmatized by others, sometimes even by the people who might normally be sources of support such as friends and family. However, other sources of support exist, such as doulas.
What exactly is a doula? A doula is someone who provides support to a pregnant woman throughout her pregnancy, during labor and often after birth during the postpartum period. Doulas are different from midwives in that they don’t usually provide medical attention and instead focus on meeting the woman’s emotional needs. Studies have shown that pregnant women assisted by doulas tend to experience shorter labor, fewer complications during the labor process and often have an easier time beginning breastfeeding.
I recently had the chance to speak with Allie Sakowicz, a doula who not only works with pregnant teens but is also a teen herself. Allie has been working as a doula for over two years. Since pregnant teens are often the ones with the least support, it was inspiring to speak with someone working to change that.
Sex, Etc.:What inspired you to become a doula?
Allie: I’ve always had a passion for both helping others and obstetrics [the branch of medicine that deals with the care of women during and after pregnancy and delivery]. And being a doula is the perfect combination of the two. I witnessed my first birth at the age of twelve and haven’t looked back. There’s absolutely nothing like the feeling I get when I witness a new life come into the world.
Sex, Etc.: How did you begin the process?
Allie: I began the process when I was 14. Earning certification through Doulas of North America (DONA) International—the oldest, largest doula association in the world—involves completing a reading list, attending a three-day workshop, writing several essays, providing support to three to seven women and receiving evaluations from the mom, her nurse and her care provider, among other things. It’s not an easy process!
Sex, Etc.: How did you come to specialize in working with pregnant teens?
Allie: As a teenager myself, I think it was a natural decision. I’m able to be both a friend and a doula to teens who may not have anyone else during their pregnancy. It’s a very cool position to be in, as there aren’t many doulas who are able to offer both of these things to patients.
Sex, Etc.: How do you tailor your services to meet the needs of the teens that you work with?
Allie: No two patients are the same, and I’m consistently altering the way I work with them to provide the best care possible. I try to meet with my patients a few times before they go into labor, so I can determine exactly how I can help them, since every situation is different and I want to be prepared.
Sex, Etc.: What advice do you have for pregnant teens who don’t have access to doulas or other similar sources of support?
Allie: I would encourage them to connect with other pregnant teens in their community. At a time when your friends can’t really understand what you’re going through, fellow young moms can be an important source of support.
Sex, Etc.: In your experience, can teen moms obtain all of the support and resources that they need from doctors, friends, family, etc.?
Allie: I think that depends on each mother’s needs. Some teen moms have a lot of support from their loved ones, and some don’t have any. Young moms should know that if they need information or counseling, there are usually pregnancy and parenting centers in their area that can assist them.
Sex, Etc.: What do you personally get out of being a doula for teen mothers?
Allie: I get the satisfaction of knowing that I help guide mothers through a powerful and personal moment. In addition, I have also gained knowledge about the field of obstetrics that will benefit me in the future.
Sex, Etc.: Is there anything else you would like to share about your experiences as a doula or your experiences working with teen mothers?
Allie: Being a doula is something that I’m extremely passionate about, as I enjoy working with teen mothers who may not otherwise have anyone by their side during their pregnancy and birth. I’m given the chance to not only serve those in my community, but also learn more about this field that I love so much. I hope that someday the combination of the physical and emotional support techniques that I have learned as a doula will combine with my future medical knowledge in order to make me a skilled obstetrician.
Though the experience of teen pregnancy can, at times, be both frightening and lonely, support is always out there for those in need. Allie is one inspiring figure dedicating her time to support teens.
For more information, check out Allie’s Web site or learn more about doulas.
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