Pregnant Women ‘Meet the Doulas’ at Jersey City Medical Center

An unprecedented event took place recently in a cafeteria at Jersey City Medical Center. Called “Meet the Doulas,” it was hosted by Leche de Mama, a non-profit organization centered around improving health and education for women with a particular focus in maternal child health. Rebeca Four, the event organizer, realized that pregnant women in our community have a great need for information surrounding pregnancy issues, nutrition and certainly the birth process.

Leche de Mama invited local doulas and other birth professionals to greet pregnant women who munched on healthy snacks and listened attentively to the benefits of labor support. Doulas broke out their bag of tricks – everything from aromatherapy to birthing balls to specific techniques for helping move a baby who, for example, is just not descending into the pelvis.

One set of doulas, a sister team that regularly helps women through the birthing process, explained how they worked with a woman whose partner was in another country and unable to attend the birth. This woman understandably wanted to avoid a surgical birth but signs weren’t looking good as her labor progressed: “The baby just wasn’t coming down after she had been pushing for several hours,” explained half of the doula team, Jennifer Singer. “The doctors were considering a c-section at that point when we begged, ‘please let us try just one more technique.’” Though the hospital staff was willing to allow one more try (as the baby was not in distress) they weren’t exactly supportive. “Sure, go ahead and try your ‘magic,’” they said.

The doulas demonstrated their “magic” technique, which involved simultaneously applying pressure to the hips thereby widening the pelvis slightly while the woman was on all fours. Evidently, this was exactly what the laboring woman needed; the baby moved downward and was born in the normal physiological way, much to everyone’s great relief.

Stories like this happen every day in the birthing world as doulas are gaining wide acceptance in hospitals around the country. In some cases, especially where nursing staff has been cut, a doula who comes along with the birthing woman helps make the nurse’s job easier. Though a doula will not check vitals or do clinical evaluations, she can emotionally and physically support the laboring woman who now does not have to ring the call bell for a nurse’s attention.

Jersey City Medical Center’s VP and Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Michael Bimonte, attended the “Meet the Doulas” event. “We are making changes in our hospital that encourage patients to have doulas support them through the birthing process,” Bimonte told JCI. “Doulas are always welcome and do not count toward the total of people present during the birth.”

This is good news as some women feel the presence of a doula might bump her ability to have her mother, partner or best friend there as well.

“We are currently taking steps toward becoming a ‘Baby-Friendly’ facility and hope to see more positive changes in our labor department in the months ahead,” Bimonte says.

The Baby-Friendly Health Initiative is a certification hospitals receive when they meet very specific requirements regarding the care of mother and child especially regarding breastfeeding and proximity to the newborn.

Changes in the approach to childbirth fluctuate decade by decade – often reflecting the social and political climate of our country. In the 70s we saw a rise in natural, midwifery-led births – the 80s became the decade of interventions and cesarean sections, and currently our country is attempting to reverse that trend. With cesarean section rates soaring nationally, we are going against the recommendations of the World Health Organization and other internationally recognized advocates for quality maternal and child health.

If using a doula can minimize a woman’s chance for a surgical birth – or even help her emotionally accommodate the incidence for surgical birth – that is reason enough to consider such a basic measure. Women who are moved to become doulas have a passionate investment in the birth process and the welfare of every laboring woman. With increased satisfaction of outcomes, on the part of the new mother, there is hope that ‘doula’ will become a household word – and one recognized by spell-check – before long.

Leche de Mama has an extensive Nurturing Doula Care Program that encompasses several initiatives; they will be hosting bi-monthly events at the Jersey City Medical Center – check your local calendars or join their website and Facebook page for additional updates.

The group’s next meetings at the medical center are scheduled for May 15th, July 17th, Sept. 18th and Nov. 20th, all at 6:30 pm.

Photo of Rebeca Four and Michael Bimonte courtesy of Jersey City Medical Center

Jayne Freeman

is the host of the long-time public access show Mamarama as seen locally on Comcast Cable (channel 51) and on YouTube. In addition to her parenting program she is a certified childbirth educator and regularly writes about the parental experience.