The word doula is derived from the Greek word δούλα, meaning female slave or woman servant. I personally don’t like to gender support, so without the gendering, it’s someone who is of service. The common definitions you’ll come across if you google it include:
A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible. ~ DONA.org
I know of men who are doulas, I know of transgender people who are doulas, and I know a lot of doulas who work in the realm of loss, abortion and bereavement. I also know humans who give birth and do not identify as “her.” This is the time we live in, and I embrace it and try to be as inclusive as possible. Whatever the case, I am someone of service, someone who will serve and support any outcome during any stage of pregnancy, birth and postpartum, for any human whatever their pronoun might be.
Nowadays, there are doulas for everything. You have your birth doulas, postpartum doulas, baby loss doulas, abortion doulas, death doulas… tattoo doulas (okay, that one isn’t a thing yet, although I think it should be). They are all specialists in their area of practice and have been trained or certified through an organization of their choice. A fairly new term (or at least growing in popularity) however, is the full spectrum doula. So what exactly is a full spectrum doula?
A full spectrum doula is:
a support person who brings the doula model of care to any pregnancy discourse and outcome, including miscarriage, planned abortion or medical termination, stillbirth, surrogacy or adoption. A full spectrum doula acknowledges that those who have had past traumatic experiences regarding pregnancy and childbirth carry those experiences with them, and they will ultimately have a different experience of pregnancy than many might expect. We provide support for any situation, unexpected or otherwise. We are reproductive justice advocates and womb warriors, and we believe that every pregnant woman and human deserves dignity, respect and support. A full spectrum doula believes that their work is not just in childbirth, but that it covers the entire spectrum of pregnancy outcomes.
According to Miriam Zoila Pérez, who wrote a primer about “radical doulas,” a full-spectrum doula refers to one who gives support to people during birth as well as other realities of pregnancy: miscarriage, lethal fetal anomaly, stillbirth, abortion, and even adoption. “I love the way it highlights how we provide support regardless of the pregnancy outcome,” she wrote. “It also makes sense to me because a person who starts out their pregnancy planning on a birth might instead end up with an abortion, a miscarriage, or an adoption. Why would we turn them away if the outcome changed?” ~ In Deep Red America, The Rise of the Abortion Doula
You can watch Miriam talk about full spectrum doulas below:
There are no formal training programs for “Full Spectrum Doulas,” so to become a FSD you would take a collection of trainings, workshops, and specialized programming to fulfil all the areas. That is not to say that you can’t be a FSD without “formal” training in every single area, you can attain the skills needed through your own experience, helping friends and family, research and reading, hanging out at the abortion clinic or sexual health clinic, and essentially becoming informed and armed with the emotional tools you need to do this work. I actually fell into my role as a FSD without even planning. When I found the term “full spectrum doula,” I knew I had finally found the title that made the most sense to me.
Here are some other articles online I recommend reading: