May 7, 2021 Domestic Violence and Disabilities, Uncategorized 0 Comments


Karisma joined Barrier Free Living (BFL) as a communication department intern this winter. In addition to sharing her writing and social media skills, she also brings her unique talents as a belly dance instructor and doula. The multi-talented Karisma discusses her interest in being a doula as it relates to her overall life plan.

My work as a pre-medical student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, planted the seed for my interest in childbirth. My interest in childbirth led me to create my own major called Dance Applications in Maternal Health and train to become a doula in 2018.

A doula is an emotional and physical support person that attends the delivery and supports an individual through the prenatal, childbirth, and immediate postpartum period. Specifically, doulas physically support individuals during childbirth by performing comfort measures such as double hip squeezes, massage, and activating pressure points during labor.

In the early postpartum period, doulas can help with things like breastfeeding and getting the hang of certain tasks such as diapering a baby. Doulas emotionally support pregnant individuals by also helping advocate for a pregnant individual’s decision in the birthing room and helping them feel empowered in their choices.

As a doula I primarily take on volunteer cases for individuals lacking a social support system, including domestic violence survivors and I take pride in providing trauma-informed doula care to these individuals.

In 2020, I decided to find volunteer work where I could put my experiences as a doula and belly dance teacher to work.


Karisma featured in a BFL promo for her Belly Dancing class. 


I found Barrier Free Living and discovered that some residents at the agency’s Freedom House domestic violence shelter have entered the shelter when pregnant and gave birth during their stay. I saw a great fit between my own life experience and goals, and the work Barrier Free Living is doing. I am able to use my knowledge and skills as a doula and as a belly dance instructor through writing and virtual teaching at BFL.

I have heard many other doulas compare childbirth to running a marathon. I love this analogy, because most people wouldn’t dare to attempt running a marathon without any mental preparation, physical training, and a general plan for game day.

A doula is someone who understands the birth space well, and can help guide, empower, and help a patient feel in control during this overwhelming time period. I recall guiding a patient through the halls of a hospital! We had practiced pelvic exercises, which she performed as a way to cope with and progress labor.

I think having a doula can be particularly helpful for survivors of domestic violence with disabilities because this high-risk population are dealing with both the general birth-related stressors and an added layer of other life stressors. Therefore, having the emotional and physical support that a birth doula provides in the prenatal, childbirth, and immediate postpartum period would likely be instrumental in helping facilitate a positive childbirth experience.

I am developing a workshop for BFL that focuses on the potential benefits of volunteer doula services as well as steps women can take to find volunteer and for-pay doula services based on what they can afford. I will also further explain the kinds of  services doulas can provide.


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