Thursday, November 20, 2008


Help For Expectant and New Mothers Is National Trend

On Thursday, November 20th, the TODAY Show explored a growing national trend among pregnant women and new mothers: the hiring of a "doula." Debbie Aglietti, a New York doula and member of DONA International was interviewed about her work as a doula in the New York area.

"As more and more women see the advantages of using doulas, I suspect the term 'doula' will become more of a household word," said Debbie Young, DONA International President. DONA International is the oldest and largest doula organization. "In fact, last week Oprah Winfrey's guest, Nicole Kidman, made mention of the assistance she received from a doula in the birth of her daughter, Sunday Rose."

Doulas provide non-medical care for pregnant women and/or new mothers and families. The term "doula" actually comes from the Greek word for a woman who serves.

Doulas work as a team with physicians and midwives in hospitals and in home births. A birth doula is a professional labor support person who accompanies women in labor to provide emotional support, physical comfort and information to help clients feel fully informed. Birth doulas can provide reassurance and perspective and help with relaxation, comforting touch and positioning. Birth doulas also facilitate communication between the woman, her partner and her caregivers. A postpartum doula is trained to help new mothers in the early weeks with their new baby. From help with breastfeeding, education on newborn care, running errands, nighttime support and anything else a new family needs help with, parents find the additional assistance invaluable.

Despite Dr. Snyderman's Today Show statement that doulas are a luxury, doulas assist women and families from all socioeconomic levels. In some cases Medicaid covers their work. In other cases, community volunteers offer doula services for low-income families for free. Some families find their doulas because their hospital offers their services for free or at low-cost. In Illinois, the state government pays for doula services under their "Ounce of Prevention" program. Other programs, such as Chicago Doula Project and PALS in Philadelphia, offer doulas for low-income mothers. Currently, doula services are not covered by most health insurance providers, but DONA International is working to change that.

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula's presence at birth:
· Tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
· Increases positive feelings about one's childbirth experience
· Reduces the need for Pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
· Reduces the mother's request for pain medication and/or epidurals

Interview a potential doula about how postpartum and birth doulas assist new mothers, pregnant women and overwhelmed spouses. Ask her to discuss the types of tasks doulas do. Tasks could include:
· Putting on music and assisting the birthing mother into a more comfortable position
· Helping a new mother with techniques for easier breastfeeding
· Offering guidance to make the first bath at home go smoothly

Families should seek to find a doula that is right for them.

With any kind of service provider, whether it's a nanny, doula, midwife or OB/GYN, it is important to get references, ask questions and make sure you are comfortable with that practitioner and their experience.

Click here to view the video.

Doulas have been working in hospitals all over the US and, in fact, internationally for over 15 years with good success. They function as part of a team effort with the hospital staff and the woman's choice of caregivers to help the family have the best birth possible. There are always exceptions to the good people in any profession and unfortunately one hospital took that exception to ban doulas. But that is one hospital out of over 7,500 hospitals in the US.

In DONA International's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, doulas pledge to treat the health care professionals that work with their clients with respect. When a nurse comes into the room to check on my client, I step to the other side of the bed and if there is any non-medical thing I can do to assist her and serve my client, I will be glad to do that. The doula helps the mother ask appropriate questions so that the mother can make the best choices possible for herself and her baby. The doula should never speak in place of the family.

Doulas are available to women with various economic means. There are many private practice doulas who work with clients who can afford to pay for their services. Many of these same doulas also take clients who cannot afford to pay their full fee at a reduced rate or may pass them on to another doula in the area that is charging less. There are also many volunteer programs or state run agencies that offer doula services for very little or free. In the press release info below you see some of them mentioned. The vast majority of doulas are in this work because it is their "heart work" and they would likely do it for free if they did not have family obligations. But I want to make it clear that doulas are worth every penny they charge. It is up to each doula to decide if and what she charges.

DONA certified doulas have approximately 50 or more hours of education behind them before they get certified. That includes the workshop, breastfeeding class, childbirth education class, reading and working with families. Then they have to document their work and write papers about their experience. It is not a simple process but it is a worthwhile process!

No comments: