Stillbirthday Birth & Bereavement Doulas® (SBD) provide support prior to, during and after birth in any trimester. SBD doulas are both birth doulas, and bereavement doulas.
The SBD doula is uniquely qualified to provide support in situations of fatal diagnosis, carrying to term, and NICU care. SBD doulas are equally prepared to provide comprehensive support in live birth outcomes, including subsequent “rainbow” pregnancies, and can serve as a labor support in all birth situations.
SBD Doulas align with the most up-to-date and best practice guidelines for all perinatal professionals as an allied member of the healthcare team, to include publications such as:
Guidelines for Health Care Professionals Supporting Families Experiencing a Perinatal Loss.
Your SBD doula submitted a letter of intent to provide birth and bereavement support, has studied through a rigorous 8 week collegiate level training, has passed with an 80% or higher on each weekly exam, has read and reviewed two books relating to pregnancy, birth and child loss, has completed an investigative assignment in her community, and is knowledgeable in these subjects and more:
- the physiological process of childbirth
- how childbirth is different and similar in trimesters
- the importance of birth order and how it is impacted by loss
- how to support a mother in labor in any trimester and in any outcome
- how to help a mother build a birth plan, particularly in an expected live birth outcome or carrying to term
- how to provide immediate support when establishing a relationship prior to the birth isn’t possible (such as unexpected pregnancy loss)
- how to preserve the fleeting moments the family has with their miscarried or stillborn baby
- how to incorporate personal wishes, extended family and siblings in the birth experience
- Your SBD doula is a traditional birth doula, and a highly skilled bereavement doula. All in one.
One in four pregnant American mothers experiences pregnancy and infant loss.
The SBD doula can support all four.
The SBD doula is the standard of excellence.
Perinatal and allied healthcare professionals who are not trained well in supporting families facing bereavement may feel frightened, overwhelmed and generally ill-prepared to understand how to respond to the differences even as well as the similarities of birth in each trimester, or the labor when the baby is alive or not. Referred or transferred to a new provider or location isn’t entirely uncommon, and can instill a message to the mother that everything is different because her baby is not alive – which is so very often an avoidable impression to make. There are many parallels of labor and birth and it is dignifying to keep these intact for the family however appropriate. Additionally, professionals in bereavement support can create an imposing feeling upon the family, as though their very presence looms the message of loss and death. It can be extremely difficult to try to speak through this. The SBD doula is equipped to serve in all birth experiences. Similar to live birth outcomes, an SBD doula can serve through the duration of labor, can identify sources of dystocia and can offer support in navigating the labor journey.
At birth, the SBD doula can help facilitate bonding, which is different from attachment. Answering questions to what is “normal”, how much “permission” each family member has in exploring their curiosities and feelings, and validating to the family are huge responsibilities immediately after birth that the SBD doula excels at. This we call the season of the Welcoming. And, the SBD doula begins to sense and can help facilitate the transition into the season of the Farewell. Having created keepsakes, creative and/or traditional momentos, assistance with photos and/or a photographer, the doula can speak in an appropriate way to the family about the extremely difficult stretch of the journey which includes their giving a professional provider the permission to have the physical form of their baby for burial or cremation.
The average time an SBD doula might spend with a family at birth is approximately 8 hours. The SBD doula can also offer postpartum support in at least one to several postpartum visits, including attending the formal farewell if the family desires. Because the SBD doula supports all birth, providing doula support for subsequent, live-birth pregnancies can also be an extremely validating, healing, meaningful and joyful experience for the family.
Related: How to Doula in Bereavement
Click to navigate to our Join Excellence page, to learn about the stillbirthday doula certification program.
After graduation, SBD doulas are invited to hold the platform of our global network, where each can create, promote and implement teachings on the aspects of birth & bereavement support that make them uniquely valuable. These subjects are many and are not limited to:
- multiples pregnancy families
- specific cultural or faith based families
- military families
- assisted reproductive technology (ART) including IVF
- various structure families (blended families, LGBTQ+)
- differently abled families
Quality Support in All Ways
SBD Doulas remain autonomous but work in agreement to our standard Principles of Service on all aspects of care, including amount of support, financial agreements, local partnerships and more.
If you’d like to become an SBD doula, visit our registration.
- Successful completion of the SBD doula program
- Letter of intent for our records
- Successful completion of any emergency services chaplaincy or healthcare chaplaincy training program is highly recommended but not required
- Ecclesiastical letter of recommendation on formal letterhead or
- Professional letter of recommendation on formal letterhead
- An extension of your doula community project, to include: a closer look at your regional groups of diversity (culture, religion, etc. and how you can serve these demographics through thanatological midwifery and chaplaincy), and, explain your local laws and the legal steps required, if any, following miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death as they pertain to transportation and repatriation information, funeral planning and specifically to home or “green” funeral planning. This should be a minimum 3 page report. Our enrollment package helps with this.
- Book review of The Invisible Pregnancy specifically as it applies to eco-thanatology.
- Book review of Ghost Belly specifically as it applies to the current challenges and support of birthing location options and outcomes.
- Attending a Professionals or Community workshop is recommended
- Signed agreement of the SBD principles of service both for doulas and for chaplains
- Biannual recertification requires vertification of continued education within these subjects within each 2 year period:
- incorporating the spiritual and emotional dimensions of birth and/or bereavement
- ethics of chaplaincy
- providing religious/spiritual support and resources
- diversity and dignity
- institutional culture
- Ability to serve families well.
- Exclusive discounts from affiliate organizations.
- and more!
Related: What is Death Midwifery
You can learn more about our Chaplain program and requirements here.
The SBD chaplain provides options.
While the SBD doula supports as a companion through the birth and into the Welcoming and toward the Farewell, the SBD chaplain might enter into the space from there. Navigating laws and policies to best fit the families needs regarding an extension to the Welcoming, leaving the hospital or other birth space with baby, information regarding leaving the state with the physical form of baby, where to bury or cremate, the SBD chaplain provides options for the Farewell and can commit to seeing how these options might come to fruition for the family. The SBD chaplain can speak at the Farewell – funeral, or other ceremony that the family chooses. In these ways there may be a simple transition between serving roles as your SBD doula and SBD chaplain, or your SBD team member might serve in only one of these roles.
Although the demographic is not notably large, families who plan full term homebirth but who endure unexpected demise face risks in bereavement that the SBD chaplain is sensitive to and capable of navigating. SBD chaplains are familiar with the dynamics of unexpected demise during planned full term homebirth and can help navigate the intensity by keeping the dignity of both the family and midwife intact when otherwise shame, guilt or blame might begin to proliferate and fester. The SBD chaplain seeks to honor the fullness of the reality of the life and personhood of your baby so that these factors don’t become distractions to the healthiest bereavement journey. It has been proven that families who have blame or shame embedded into these earliest moments or scripted into these earliest memories are at higher risk of both complicated and disenfranchised grief in the years to come, while families who have the support of an SBD chaplain in these earliest moments, who have permission to honor their authentic feelings without fear of abandonment or blame, are much more likely to move into as productive and enriching a bereavement journey as possible.