She Walks With Me - Indigenous Doula Research


She Walks With Me: Supporting Urban Indigenous Expectant Mothers Through Culturally-Based Doulas (2020-present)

The proposed project responds to the social and cultural challenges experienced by a project on Indigenous doulas as a cultural intervention for Manitoban First Nations women traveling for birth and is focused on the urban Indigenous population in Winnipeg. Our objectives are: (1) to develop a set of quantitative and qualitative research tools that are responsive to the partners’ needs for evidence and provides an opportunity for participants to share their experiences in a format that honours them as life givers; (2) to establish a model for urban Indigenous doula service delivery that places Indigenous communities and organizations at the centre and provides administrative, technical, cultural, and emotional support for Indigenous birth workers; (3) to develop an urban-focused Indigenous doula program that supports women currently residing in the city, as well as those temporarily relocating for birth; and (4) to develop and pilot a smartphone app for the delivery of ongoing education, inter-doula networking, and access to information to support the work of the doulas.

Indigenous Doulas as a Culturally-Based Health Intervention to Improve Health and Birth Outcomes for First Nations Women in Remote Communities Who Travel for Birth (2017-present)

Most women in rural Manitoba First Nations communities travel to tertiary centres to deliver their babies. The impacts of being alone and unsupported include a range of psychosocial stress resulting in poor health outcomes for mom and babies such as preterm birth, low and high birth weights, and infant and neonatal mortality. Having support during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum can alleviate some of these poor health outcomes. Doula care is about supporting women during labour and birth and has shown considerable efficacy with women from marginalized groups or transcultural climates. This research will examine how an Indigenous doula program can address poor health and social outcomes for First Nations women who travel for birth. This project involves three First Nations communities in Manitoba (Pimicikamak Cree Nation/Cross Lake, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation/Nelson House, Misipawistik Cree Nation/Grand Rapids) with the Manitoba Indigenous Doulas Initiative (MIDI), university researchers (University of Winnipeg/Manitoba), and First Nations researchers (First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba/Nanaandawawegimeg). This project will develop culturally-based doula training for each of the three communities. MIDI will then recruit and train women in these communities to become prenatal/postpartum community doulas who will work alongside previously trained doulas working in the urban setting. Pregnant women will receive the care of a community doula up until they temporarily relocate to the referral centre, at which time they will come under the care of an urban doula who will also provide care during the birth. Once the women have given birth and return to their communities, the community doulas will take over care. Throughout the care from her two-doula team, a variety of health and well-being measurements will be taken. 

The Winnipeg Boldness Project Indigenous Doula Initiative (20132016)

The Winnipeg Boldness Project set out to understand what gaps in support exist for pregnant women in Point Douglas, Winnipeg, as well as the barriers to accessing supports that are currently available. Indigenous doulas (people who provide support in the non-medical parts of birth and labour) are a promising culturally appropriate support. Working with the Manitoba Indigenous Doula Initiative (MIDI), traditional knowledge keepers, and community health agencies we focused on three activities to support the training of and use of Indigenous doulas.

  • Curriculum Development: Working with traditional knowledge keepers to develop a training process based in Indigenous perspectives and ceremonies.
  • Build Community Capacity: Building knowledge of the supports that doulas can provide.
  • Supports for Doulas and Families: Working with doulas and families to learn from their experiences and understand the supports that are needed.