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Doulas Under Fire

To Doula or Not to Doula

When I was pregnant, I did prenatal yoga. My instructor was a woman who doubled as a doula. According to DONA International,

The word, "doula," comes from the Greek word for the most important female slave or servant in an ancient Greek household, the woman who probably helped the lady of the house through her childbearing. The word has come to refer to "a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after childbirth.

To learn more about doulas and why some hospitals ban them,


A virgin to the term two years ago, I am no longer as many of my friends have chosen doulas for their birthing plans. Doulas can range in intensity — some prefer to only work with antimedicine couples while others are more open to the idea of a laboring mother accepting an epidural or c–section. And while many doula–mother relationships are fine and dandy, the doctor or nurse association with doulas is not always positive.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a story on the subject. The article said,

The increased popularity of doulas and lactation consultants has also led to more conflict — not only with parents but doctors and nurses as well.

There are no national statistics on the phenomenon, and few women readily admit to doula discord. But according to a 2006 study of women who used doulas in Alabama, 44 percent of women described the relationship between their hospital nurses and doulas as hostile, resentful, and confrontational.

At Reston Hospital Center in northern Virginia, disputes became so common that in 2005, the hospital banned doulas. “From a nursing standpoint, too many crossed a line and interfered with my job,” said Sarah Baxter, a registered nurse and director of labor and delivery at Reston.

My yoga instructor actually recommended some San Francisco hospitals over others as the medical staff at some were more accepting of doulas and their practices. And odd enough, the women I know who hired doulas were the ones who ended up having c–sections or had to be induced into labor via drugs.

Did you or do you want a doula at your side in the delivery room?


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