We are Hospital Doulas, and We Support Women

We work in a hospital, surrounded by amazing technology that is transforming medical care. But the work we do in the hospital is as old as time. We are doulas. Our job is to support mothers through pregnancy and delivery for a safe and positive birth experience.

The word doula has its roots in ancient Greece; it means women who serve. We think that’s an accurate description of our role in helping others. We are trained professionals who help mothers throughout labor and delivery to provide comfort, relaxation, breathing patterns to manage stress, emotional support, communication with the medical team and bonding and breastfeeding with the newborn baby.

Doulas are part of the team at a growing number of birthing hospitals. We’re not nurses or midwives, but we work alongside them to provide continuous labor support to mothers. And that’s important as New Jersey and other states are taking action to improve outcomes for pregnant women and their babies. We’re all committed to reducing unnecessary C-sections, eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes and avoiding birth-related complications for mothers.

A doula’s role actually begins during the prenatal period. We work with pregnant women as they think through their labor and delivery options – considerations like what type of pain relief do you want, do you want to labor at home or in the hospital, how do you feel about having labor induced? It’s all about empowering the mother and helping her advocate for herself and her baby.

And here’s the wonderful thing: Empowering mothers in childbirth has led to tremendous results. Data shows that births in which a doula supported the mother resulted in fewer birth complications, fewer C-sections and better initiation of breastfeeding.

Of course, there are times when a C-section is medically necessary for the health of the mother or her baby. But there’s also agreement among health advocates that the nation’s C-section rate is too high, and that unnecessary C-sections can put both the mother and her baby at risk. As doulas, we are very pleased to see that all of New Jersey’s 49 birthing hospitals, including The Valley Hospital, have joined with the New Jersey Hospital Association to reduce the number of C-sections for first-time mothers who are carrying a single baby in the correct birthing position. We call these NTSV C-sections, and the hope is that if we can help a mother have a safe vaginal delivery for her first baby, she also has a better chance of avoiding the added risk of a C-section for any subsequent deliveries.

As we assist mothers through labor and delivery, we realize again and again that each birth is different, and each one is special. This is an important reminder for all of us: Each woman must be empowered to communicate what she wants in her birth experience and to realize the dreams she holds for that beautiful baby in her arms.

Guest columnists Afshan Abbasi and Wendy Gorter are doulas with The Valley Hospital’s Center for Family Education.

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Guest columnists Afshan Abbasi and Wendy Gorter are doulas with The Valley Hospital’s Center for Family Education.

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