Recently The New York Times wrote about doulas and the article left a negative impression about doulas, and tossed in a criticizing lactation consultant comment as an aside. To take the view that the New York Times article does–as an across-the-board view that doulas are problems–is an error. The paper presented a complaint rather than pursuing a couple of viable angles: the many expectations that mothers and partners have of labor support today, and the licensure of female support at birth such as midwives, birth educators in the role of birth support, monitrices (someone who has been trained to provide some clinical assessment in labor usually while mother is at home) and doulas.

There are now many birth support and whole birth health care options for women to learn about, choose from and advocate for change. Midwives, independent childbirth educators, doulas, birth centers, homebirth and breastfeeding are now more commonplace subjects to bring up when planning birth. Women today are realizing that they need to avoid interventions such as induction which carries a higher risk for cesarean or just arriving at the hospital too early; and there are options available to support their refusal to fall in line with industrialized birth. In response, hospitals are trying to offer more and more amenities but many parents recognize that in spite of measures by hospitals to draw them in by offering a luxury tub or more comfortable birth room furniture, hospital birth is still hospital birth. Seeing the smoke and mirrors, women who still choose to birth in a hospital may seek additional independent female support in birth which has been shown to be a positive influence on outcomes. However the benefits of the additional birth support is very clear in the birth community and we hope the media will take the time to do more in-depth articles on the anthropology of women in birth, culturally and traditionally.

It is confusing for the public to read contradictory articles posted by the same journalism venue such as this one from CNN that says doulas advocate for you and then CNN also posted this article stating “doulas are not supposed to offer a medical opinion….strictly to motivate the mother.” What remains the focus for women is that we still need to think independently, make our own choices and employ those who support our choices from birth care to birth itself. Women have many different reasons for hiring a doula besides strictly whether or not to ask them to advocate. Doulas can make fathers and siblings comfortable with birth and help them enjoy birth too! There are obstetricians, midwives and labor and delivery nurses who have witnessed doulas as an extra pair of caring hands so that all participating in the birth remain fresh and positive during a labor and birth–especially an intense birth. Doulas help military moms birthing without their partners. Doulas are sometimes even interpreters! This is a day that many never imagined: birth support, midwives, homebirth, unassisted birth, informed birth, etc. are all in the headlines!

In many states women’s choices are being restricted and the birth community continues to work together for the greater benefit of society at large ~ improving mother and baby outcomes ~ and for the mothers and babies where you live!

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