who's the ECL?

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm not BAD evil, more like devil's food cake evil.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ask ECL: What the Heck is Up With the Doula Bashing?

Carlotta left me a comment that I thought would make a better post:
I can't believe what I heard on the news today. Some hospitals are banning doulas because they "get in the way when split second decisions are needed." WHAT?? Is that even legal?? Have you heard of this?
Carlotta, you may be referring to the Today segment on doulas that ran this morning. One of the OBs interviewed said that their Virginia hospital has banned doulas, because "they created a more hostile environment for deliveries..." This is legal. Hospitals aren't public places, they are businesses, and can do what they feel is best for their employees and patients. We as patients cannot underestimate the importance of malpractice liability when we enter a hospital. They are doing their best to provide the best care, AND to prevent the possibility of losing a malpractice lawsuit, ESPECIALLY on the Labor and Delivery ward, where the majority of malpractice lawsuits are aimed.

The Today show segment also brought up the issue of regulation for doulas. So far, there is no official licensing body that governs a doula's training and education. You could wake up tomorrow, decide you're now a doula, and go and get paid for it. DONA (Doulas of North America) is a certifying body with standards of care and education that many doulas adhere to, but it is not legally necessary to be certified. This has led to quite a wide range of offered services, protocols, prices, and professionalism within the field.

So yes, Carlotta, doulas have been banned from some hospitals. And yes, Carlotta, some doulas have created hostile environments and have left a bitter taste in the medical system's mouth. The doula community has been well aware for some time now that there are doulas out there who do more to hurt rather than help our relationship with the hospitals and medical care givers. Every doula is well aware of the hostility she may encounter when she walks into her client's hospital. Any doula worth her salt would strive to build and maintain good relationships with her client's caregivers, no matter if they are nurses, OBs, or home birth midwives.

It saddens me that the Today show chose to focus on this aspect of doula-ing instead of all the other wonderful ways a doula's support has helped the medical staff perform their jobs even better. It saddens me that the Today show didn't even bother to get any other OB out there in America who might have a good thing to say about doulas interviewed in their segment. The segment played out as "parents, you might like a doula, but they're an expensive luxury item and YOUR DOCTOR HATES THEM!"

The Today show did get one thing right, though. Parents looking for a doula, you've got to be smart about who you hire. Not all doulas know what they are doing, and not all doulas are going to be the right personality fit for you. Interview a few doulas and call their references. A good doula will probably have some sort of birth experience, but she'll know how to listen deeply to what you are saying. She'll have the courage to guide you into the deeper waters of your concerns and help you find your own answers. She'll be a team player, and most importantly, she knows to put aside all her own personal beliefs, issues and experiences so that she can be fully present to support you and your experience.