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Leona Guettler entered the world last June – a little late but surrounded by support and love.

For Elizabeth Guettler and her husband, Jeremiah, having a doula to help them through the last weeks of pregnancy and the birth of their daughter made all the difference.

Guettler said she wasn’t sure what role a doula would play. The couple attended a Meet the Doula event at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, where they connected with Kim Nowokunski, one of two birth doulas who work for the hospital.

“We felt like we needed a little extra support,” Guettler said.

With no family in South Carolina, having an experienced helper around as Leona’s due date came and went helped calm nerves and get the couple ready for the experience. 

“It was really the exact labor and delivery I had hoped for,” Guettler said.

Guettler said Nowokunski was “an angel in the delivery room.”

According to Doulas of North America (dona.org), one of the certifying organizations for doulas, 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.

That is exactly what Nowokunski was for Guettler.

“A huge part of it was the ‘before’ piece as well,” Guettler said. “She was there giving me a lot of help. I feel like a lot of support came that week or two weeks before. During the birth, she was there a lot for Jeremiah. I think we just felt more at ease. I felt no stress or anxiety during the process. She was there to serve, and it made it as positive an experience as possible.”

For Nowokunski, it is all about support.

“We like to think that a doula mothers the mother in a way that her own mother can’t or is not available to,” Nowokunski said. “We are there from the time you hire us – and some people hire us from the time the stick turns positive – to answer questions, to be emotional support, to help you find evidence-based information, to help you stay comfortable.”

Nowokunski said a doula is not there to replace a partner in any way or to interfere with healthcare staff.

“We work as a team,” she said. “We know how to stay in our lane. We care how you view your birth for years to come.”

Even is something doesn’t go according to plan – maybe a C-section or another intervention is needed – Nowokunski said a doula can help mothers remember what was good about the process.

“You will never forget the day you give birth each time,” she said. “It’s important to remember it positively because it affects the way you feel about your child.”

Though hiring a doula is not currently covered by insurance, Nowokunski said families can usually use funds in a health savings account to cover the cost. For St. Francis, that cost is $450, but Nowokunski noted that there are many wonderful doulas in the Upstate and their costs can vary. 

Learn more about what a doula does and how to hire one at https://www.dona.org

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