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icon ©2014 M Czarnecki;  photo by P.Fortune
icon ©2014 M Czarnecki; photo by P.Fortune

The more I work with women in birth, the more I realize that spirituality plays a role in many people’s births.  This may include a simple prayer or long meditations the mother uses to connect herself to the divine with each contraction.  I found that it became important for me to be in tune with the mother’s use of these rituals in order to either help her, or remind her of her desire to use these as a resource.  Because of this, I ask my students to interview someone about spirituality during birth.  Below is an example of one student that highlights not only the use of spirituality, but the ability for others of different faiths to work together.

I can only imagine how powerful the feeling is when you feel the power of creation during childbirth. One doesn’t necessarily need to be religious in order to feel a spiritual connection. Both spirituality and religious beliefs are powerful coping mechanisms during childbirth. I believe this is what I would feel. I am baptized catholic but religion doesn’t play a big role in my life. I feel, however, that spirituality is another world when you are bringing life into this world. You are connected to a greater being, a higher power, whichever it is for you. It is something you are drawn to during labor which makes it a transforming experience.

One of my next clients is Mormon and when I asked her if she had any religious practices that I could help her with or know of in order to help provide better care for her she was very glad I asked. She wasn’t glad because there would be a lot I could help her with, but glad that I took the time to ask and show that I care. She explained to me that she didn’t have any religious practices that would come into play during labor. She may feel inclined to say a prayer, or have her husband, give her a blessing. She described a blessing as when her husband places his hands on her head and says a prayer, just asking for help, comfort, and help for her. She did thank me for thinking to ask her but said there wouldn’t be any thing she would need from me in this case, other than the support.

As a person, and as a doula, I am always willing to learn. I am eager to help out in any way that I can and will be a part of religious practices if asked, or will leave it to the privacy of the family, if required. I am easy going, helpful and mindful. I am here to please and help in any way possible.

This interview was a great example of how doulas provide holistic care.  Holistic care takes on many dimensions, one of which is spirituality.  This is often a forgotten aspect of care in our culture, and yet researchers have found that “cross-culturally and throughout history, pregnancy and childbirth have been perceived as spiritual events because of the miraculous process involved” (Maloney, 2007).  Spirituality can take on many different dimensions including religion, connecting to others or Higher Power, values, or transcendence, thus it has the ability to incorporate a large group of women throughout the world (Callister, 2010).

Below are some ideas of things a doula can do to help address these needs to ensure that the birthing mother’s care incorporates spirituality as a part of holistic care:

  • Allow the mother to discuss and talk about any spiritual experiences with birth they have had.
  • Make sure the birthing environment provides a safe place for the woman to utilize any ceremonies surrounding birth and labor.
  • Assess beforehand what the woman may want to help facility what she views as spirituality.
  • Promote connections between a higher power, the people around her, and/or the infant.
  • Develop your own ability to be present or wholly focused on the needs of the laboring mother.


Moloney, S. (2007). Dancing with the wind: A methodological approach to researching women’s spirituality around menstruation and birth.  International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 6(1), Article 7.  Retrieved July 8, 2014, from http://www.ualberta.ca/~iiqm/backissues/6_1/moloney.pdf.

Callister, L., Khalaf, Inaam. (2010). Spirituality in Childbearing Women. The Journal for Perinatal Education, 19(2). 16-24.

Follow Rachel Leavitt:

Rachel has worked as a register nurse (BSN from University of Utah) since 2004 with a work history in Labor and Delivery, NICU and Postpartum Care. She is also the founder of New Beginnings Doula Training which she organized in 2011. When she's not busy being a mother and grandmother, she can be found reading research papers related to some aspect of childbirth.

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