More on doulas

I don’t want to dwell on this subject too much, but as it has raised interest and some ire, I thought I’d share with you an email, one of many, that I received from those who had similarly unfortunate experiences with doulas. Most of these emails have been from mothers who used doulas and wanted to relay the difficulties they had. But here is one email I received yesterday from a former doula:

Many doulas “stay in the box” and limit their role to comfort and support. Sadly, as you have discovered, there are doulas, birth assistants and lay midwives who are practicing medicine far beyond their scope, sometime with serious consequences. In the Washington, DC area, they have a cult-like following and actively recruit new members with false claims and promises. They falsify official documents (i.e. birth records and birth certificates) and often buy tramadol online practice without insurance or supervision. It is these women who have made such a bad name for doulas and others in the birth community.

Well, I must say, this is one thing I hadn’t come across in my research, so I can’t corroborate. But if it’s true, that’s alarming! Has anyone else witnessed anything like this?

The more common issue that I encountered was doulas performing vaginal exams, despite the explicit objections of DONA. After Penny Simkin mediated a dispute where an uncertified doula was caught performing a vaginal exam and doulas were thrown off a hospital ward, she issued guidelines to prevent a “doula backlash,” urging doulas not to perform clinical care, question, or contradict a caregiver’s authority or control management.

Would love to hear thoughts on either issue, neither of which made it into the NYT story.

4 thoughts on “More on doulas

  1. mamaloo

    Is there really a big group of doulas performing vag exams? Because in the circles I travel in, that is totally and completely verboten.

    It’s crazy! It is a clinical task that I, as a doula, am not trained in. I’ve never heard of another doula doing such a thing and frankly a mother who consents to this is accepting the liability of having an untrained clinician providing illegal medical services.

    Women desperately need to learn to stand up for themselves, do their research and trust themselves. It is our present culture of birth that has so divorced women from owning their own bodies and experiences that leads to them being taken advantage of.

  2. Ponnye

    Agree. Women frequently don’t stand up with for themselves and draw boundaries, which is why date rape as all kinds of other things happen: Women want to be nice. This is another topic and one I can go on and on about.

    As for the inappropriate behavior of doulas….there needs to be guidelines and a governing body that will reprimand doulas for inappropriate behavior. Right now, this doesn’t seem to exists or, if so, it’s not enforced. Everything is vague and loosey / goosey.

  3. mamaloo

    But there ARE guidelines and governing bodies: the certifying organizations where most doulas are certified and/or members.

    Of course, many doulas, like myself, are not (yet) certified (or choose not to be) but a good doula will at least adopt the code of ethics of an organization.

    Women (and their partners) who have a less than happy experience with a doula have the right to lodge a formal complaint with that doula’s member organizations.


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