Category Archives: Outsourced

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.

And journalist makes five

Debuting my blog on a bittersweet note, I’d like to point to a story I wrote in yesterday’s New York Times on doulas and lactation consultants. The story is about how with the increased use of doulas and LCs, has come a (not surprising) increase in conflicts. I hoped to provide a balanced view of the issue, because I think expectant and new mothers can use (almost) all the help they can get. However, I’ve heard and I reported on an unfortunate number of negative experiences with practitioners in both fields. At heart, as I write in the piece, is a lack of standardization and oversight. Anyone can call themselves a doula, and there is a tangle of organizations that accredit LCs, some requiring only a weekend workshop. (Anyone who has breastfed can attest that the complications that arise might require a bit more expertise than that!)

To my surprise, I have received a lot of flack from doulas and from breastfeeding moms (of which I am one). Many felt that I attacked doulas unfairly and didn’t properly give credit to either field. I actually thought (and hope) I treated both with respect. Perhaps the story will lead to improvements in standardization in both fields, or at least to more diligence among parents who want to hire either one (or both). I think the shared goal here is to make sure all women get the support they need in childrearing.