PROVO, Utah (AP) — When Melissa Chappell became a doula more than 20 years ago, the word “Doula” hardly existed.
And yet the popularity and use of doulas — birthing coaches who support and coach women through labor — has skyrocketed in recent years, she said.
Hospitals and maternity organizations across Utah County, where Chappell works, are seeing a growing demand for doulas, The Daily Herald reports.
Doulas aren’t licensed but many receive some form of certification or training. The profession gained official support from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2017. The organization wrote that the use of a doula during childbirth was associated with fewer cesarean sections, shorter labors, and happier mothers.
“I think a lot of the medical profession measures a successful birth by whether or not the baby and mom are alive,” Chappell, a state-licensed midwife and the owner of Songbird Maternity in Orem, said. “That is a great measurement, but it is not the only one we should be paying attention to.”
She attributes the rise in demand for doulas to social media and younger, millennial women who are more comfortable sharing their childbirth experiences.
“Sometimes all someone needs is for someone to witness the experience and see that she has had this experience, and help her get through it, without being disrespected or traumatized,” she said.
At Intermountain Healthcare hospitals in Utah, the number of mothers who request a doula remains small, said Anne-Marie Savage, the executive director of obstetric and neonatal operations at Intermountain Healthcare.
Savage said the hospitals use guidelines from DONA International, a doula organization, to monitor the birthing coaches. Rules include that doulas are not allowed to take blood pressure, give vaginal exams or talk for a patient.
“We have some lay doulas in the public that have oftentimes been inappropriate or risked patient outcome because of the way they are behaving,” she said.
Savage also recognized that having a birthing coach in the room can be helpful. The University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, for example, has a volunteer doula program.
“We want to meet mom where mom wants it,” she said. “She’s the captain of the ship, and if she wants attendants in the room to help … then let’s offer it to her.”
Stephanie Sorenson works as a doula in Utah. She said part of her job is to help women consider their mental and physical health both during and after birth, and thrive during the transition. More women are becoming empowered about their bodies and reproduction, Sorenson added.
“I think women are waking up, and I think they are not OK with the status quo,” she said.
Written by BRALEY DODSON, Associated Press.
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