Doulas for All

An inspiring childbirth education course led Every Mother Counts staff members to become deeply involved in a movement to ensure that all moms who desire a doula have access to one.

A Conversation about Doulas in New York
Danielle Cohen, EMC Staff

“The idea that not every woman and not every baby have the same opportunity to come into the world, or to bring life into the world in the way they’d like to experience it, has never settled well with me. I have a tremendous belief that we’re at a time where we have opportunities we’ve never had before. This is a time where we really need to come together and use all the momentum to push this opportunity forward to reach our goal…to ensure that all women & babies have the opportunity to reach their full health potential.” -Dr. Aletha Maybank, Associate Commissioner, Center for Health Equity

Over the last several weeks Every Mother Counts has expanded our efforts to raise awareness about the challenges and solutions of giving birth in the United States. In an effort to do so, we released a new film series, “Giving Birth in America,” teamed up with Great Big Story to feature awesome change-makers in the maternal health space, and have been rallying support around an exciting Change.org petition, penned by grantee and founder of Commonsense Childbirth, Jennie Joseph.

On Wednesday, January 6th, Every Mother Counts took our efforts a step further by joining doulas and doula advocates to participate in a conversation with the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about the benefits, obstacles, and strategies to improving doula access for mothers in the state of New York. We discussed the many barriers doulas face in New York, including an imbalance and lack of harmony between doulas, nurses, and doctors in a hospital setting, a lack of long-term and low-risk funding opportunities which are currently limiting organizations abilities to plan and invest, and the absence of a successfully streamlined reimbursement model for all states to adapt. However, despite the numerous and highly-nuanced challenges, the group presented several tangible strategies that we believe can help propel the movement forward.

Some solutions discussed were:

  • Working towards federal legislation that mandates coverage of doula care.
  • Encouraging Medicaid, at the very least, to recommend doula care in their states in order to minimize complications of applying for wavers to include doula care. With more streamlined processes in place, including the use of reimbursement codes, a clearer pathway for reimbursement can be set up across states.
  • Increasing communication and interaction between nurses, doctors, midwives and doulas, including implementing more in-house doula programs in hospital settings.
  • Encouraging women to share their stories about the benefits of doula care.

Learn more here about the benefits and strategies for improving access to doula care.

The Office Get’s a Childbirth Education Class
Perrie Grace, EMC Staff

Prior to the meeting in NYC, Every Mother Counts also had the opportunity to participate in an introduction to childbirth education with Debra Pascali-Bonaro. Hear from EMC’s Perrie Grace on what she took away from the course:

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the routine of my daily life, and focus too much on the small things… did I follow up on about that meeting, or send in my last donation report? Even when working in a field that I care so much about, every now and again I need a reminder to take a step back and look at the big picture. Why do I come into the office everyday, and devote my time to moms around the world?

Last month I got the opportunity to do that, when the EMC staff was fortunate enough to spend the day with Debra Pascali Bonaro, a Lamaze-certified childbirth expert and award-winning documentarian. We were there to learn about and discuss the history, transformation, and current state of childbirth. As the meeting kicked off, I looked around the room at my colleagues and the setup seemed like the start of a joke: What happens when you put a childbirth expert, three women with very different birth stories, two women with babies far off their radar and a man who squirms when he hears the word delivery, in a room to learn about pregnancy…

The result was incredible. Our team may come from different backgrounds, education levels, and have different experiences with pregnancy and childbirth, but we are all on the same mission to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for more mothers. I may be biased, but I have rarely been in a room with people so eager to learn. For some, it was a refresher course, for others, it was new territory. Either way, the competition to take the most notes had begun.

Throughout the conversation we reviewed the stages of delivery and common birthing techniques. We discussed hormones used during pregnancy and delivery. We took a trip back in time to the 1900’s to learn about the movement of childbirth from home to hospital and the effect this had on everything from pain management, to the economics of childbirth, to the overall experience of childbirth.

The day flew by. Before I knew it I was being swaddled by coworker (file that under things I never thought I’d say), as we practiced ways to sooth and ease a mother during labor. Maybe it was Debra’s knowledge and expertise, or my incredible note taking skills, but I ended the day with a new understanding of the landscape of childbirth. I came away with a new catch phrase, Stand and Deliver — Don’t Take it Lying Down, and inspired to further this education and continue to help others by becoming a doula. I’m hoping to take my training this spring, I’ll report back!

For more, check out our new film series “Giving Birth in America” at CNN.com/mothers.

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