Fertility doulas offer support to couples struggling to conceive

These specially-trained doulas help couples navigate their infertility journeys.
/ Source: TODAY

When Amanda Osowski struggled to become pregnant, she realized how little she understood about infertility. She felt so overwhelmed that she sometimes didn’t even know what questions to ask.

“The journey to motherhood did not look like a romantic evening with my husband,” she told TODAY Parents. “(I didn’t know) how to interpret the information I was finding in terms of what my choices were, what was going to happen to me if I didn’t get pregnant the traditional way, the prices, how it was going to impact, my body, my life, my marriage.”

What’s more, trying to conceive took an emotional toll.

“Negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test left me feeling really overwhelmed and disappointed and alone,” she said. “My timeline was feeling endless, my body felt broken, my heart felt weary.”

Osowski, who lives in Chicago, shared her experiences with others and soon learned that many felt desperate for the same kind of information she desired. After undergoing three intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatments and in vitro fertilization (IVF) twice, she became pregnant with her daughter, Brooklyn, who was born last May.

After her daughter’s birth, Osowski knew she wanted to help other couples dealing with infertility, so she trained to become a fertility doula.

“I really thought about all of the ways in which women and families deserve support and I founded my personal business with the idea that educating, supporting and cultivating new families was a start to finish process,” she said.

Osowski offers in-person support (or virtual during the time of social distancing) to people facing infertility. She helps them prepare for doctor’s appointments, coaching them on what they might want to know and how to ask for it. She interprets complex medical information, such as details about fertility testing and treatments, and helps them develop a plan.

“I offer everything from in person support at fertility doctor visits to helping them look for ways to supplement their medical care and taking care of their mind and body while they’re going through procedures,” Osowski said. “I offer support and the sort of advocacy that I would have really loved to have when I went through this.”

Her own experience often informs her practice and she wants her clients to know she understands their struggles. Osowski recalls when she was starting infertility treatments the doctor presented her and her husband with paperwork that stunned them. It asked questions about what they would do with fertilized embryos if she died, for example, or if something happened to both of them. She felt ill-prepared to answer such questions.

“I didn’t even know I needed to be thinking about that before I went to the appointment,” she said. “Being able to be a non-emotionally invested support person in the room or on the phone to prepare them before they walked into an appointment (would be) really welcomed.”

When couples become pregnant she still provides services to prepare them for prenatal visits. She does not serve as a delivery doula, but has friends she can recommend.

While there are not as many fertility doulas as birth doulas, for example, people can access a directory of fertility (and other) doulas on Motherfigure, a startup that supports new mothers. The website offers a directory of providers and services that new and expecting moms might need.

“Based on what we are seeing nationwide there are far fewer doulas focused on this discipline but they would be welcomed by the community,” Chelsea Allison, founder of Motherfigure told TODAY Parents. “It’s does differ depending on where you are but there is growing interest."

Osowski recommends that people look for fertility doulas with philosophies that match theirs.

"Connection or comfort in conversation is critical," she said. "We want clients to feel like we are part of their team."

Osowski's personal experience still guides her. A transfer of a frozen embryo for her second child in May won't happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That has been suspended just like every other fertility treatment,” Osowski said. “I’m also living through the current disappointment and grief and heartache of what this pandemic has done.”

Still, she’s helping couples through this time.

“I can work with them to develop a plan to take care of themselves now and be ready for things to open up whatever that might look like,” she explained.