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Doula Training in Broadmoor to Provide Birth Benefits
The Birthmark Doula Collective, a group trained to support, educate, and advocate for pregnant and parenting women in New Orleans, will be starting free pregnancy services and doula training beginning Friday June 21, 2013 at the Rosa F. Keller Library (4300 S. Broad St.) in Broadmoor.
According to DONA International (Doulas of North America), an organizational network for doulas, doula training and women seeking doulas, a doula is a knowledgeable and experienced pregnancy companion who stays with a mother through labor, birth and beyond.
However, a doula is not a midwife; the difference being that a doula is an assistant who provides physical and emotional support during childbirth, helping women in a non-medical capacity; while a midwife, as said by the World Health Organization, is a person who, having been regularly admitted to a recognized midwifery educational program and has successfully completed the prescribed course of studies in midwifery and attained the required training to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery. To simplify, a doula is to a midwife as a psychologist is to a psychiatrist; one is medically trained and licensed through a medical program, and the other is not.
Latona Giwa, co-founder of Birthmark, said New Orleans currently overuses costly and risky procedures that leave new families in poorer health and higher medical bills.
“We know from other countries that providing support to pregnant families is a cheaper way to improve health outcomes. Why not do that here?” she said.
Louisiana has the nation’s highest cesarean section rate at 40 percent, though the World Health Organization recommends no more than a 15 percent C-section rate. This is significant because women have a five to seven times greater risk of death with C-section as opposed to vaginal birth and infants born by C-section are five times as likely to be admitted to intermediate or intensive care.
Louisiana also has the nation’s lowest breastfeeding rate. According to womenshealth.gov, breast milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect babies from infections and disease such as whooping cough. These cells, hormones and antibodies are easier for the baby to digest which help prevent gastrointestinal disease in later years. Store-bought baby formulas cannot match the chemical makeup of human breast milk. In fact, among formula-fed babies, ear infections and diarrhea are more common. Formula-fed babies also have higher risks of lower respiratory infection, asthma, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Some research shows that breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and has also been shown to lower the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
The United States has the highest costs for maternal health care in the world, with some of the lowest positive health outcome returns. Giwa points to studies that show how using doulas results in a 50 percent reduction in C-sections, forceps and vacuum extraction; shorter hospital stays; fewer babies in neonatal intensive care; less anxiety and postpartum depression and a higher breastfeeding rate.
Doulas offer specific labor support skills: offering guidance and encouragement, assisting mothers to cover gaps in their care, building a team relationship, and encouraging communication between patient, nursing staff, and medical caregivers. Ironically, the most effective doulas are laywomen, not medical professionals or staff. Typically, only middle-to-upper income families can afford the services. Through the 2013 Joseph Wall Award from Iowa’s Grinnell College, Birthmark will now be able to assist all income levels.
In partnership with the Broadmoor Improvement Association, the collective’s Community Doula Pilot Program will train 20 student doulas, provide five training scholarships, provide educational in-services to doulas and nurses, and provide doula support to 200 New Orleans families. The doula training begins with a three-day workshop starting June 21 at the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center.
Birthmark provides birth and postpartum doula services; childbirth and parenting education and even birth tub and breast pump rentals. Their program services for expectant mothers include prenatal visits at home; education and resource referrals; birth team support; postpartum visits; breastfeeding support and emotional, physical and informational support during labor and delivery. They offer sliding scale and free enrollment in their “belly talks” childbirth preparation class as well as a free drop-in “welcome baby” parenting class on Saturdays at Broadmoor Community Center.
Not only will participating families benefit from this program, but so will New Orleans from this “long-term advocacy tool for expanding prenatal health care in the region.” Giwa said
“The project will demonstrate how providing birth doula support to New Orleans families can improve birth outcomes," she said. In our world of rising health care costs, this will save money, but, more importantly, improve and even save lives.”
For more information on receiving services or the Community Doula Pilot Program email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly specified low-income requirements to receive Birthmark service. Those requirements only exist for the Birthmark Collective's 'One for One' program. "We provide sliding scale services and use the income generated from those services to meet the needs of families who otherwise could not afford our services," Birthmark writes.
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