WARM WELCOME: Candamil with her daughters
When Cindy Candamil was ready to give birth to her second child at the MGH, she became one of the first patients to benefit from a budding partnership between the midwives of the MGH Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology Department and Birthing Gently. The Boston-based organization of doulas – nonmedical labor coaches – offers physical and emotional support before, during and after childbirth. The MGH Midwifery Service now offers free doula support to some of its patients through the new volunteer doula program.
“I had a doula when I gave birth to my eldest daughter,” Candamil says. “I couldn’t imagine giving birth without a doula in the delivery room – I was so grateful I could have one at the MGH.”
Midwives have been a vital component of the Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology Department since its establishment at the MGH in 1994. They embody a compassionate and family-friendly practice that complements the values of MGH midwives, says Autumn Cohen, a certified nurse midwife at the hospital. “I knew having this type of program would benefit a lot of our patients here. When I was updating the list of doulas in the Boston area, I asked if they offered free or reduced services.”
Tara Poulin, a certified doula and founder of Birthing Gently, offered her already-established volunteer program, which coordinates doula services for hospitals in Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and New York City. “We have nearly 45 birth doulas in the volunteer program. Some of our volunteer doulas are working toward certification; others have been volunteering their services since I started the program 12 years ago.”
Volunteer doula services at the MGH typically include one prenatal visit, 24/7 prenatal phone support, attendance at the birth and two hours postpartum, and one follow-up phone call. For Candamil, her experience was a little different. “I met my doula for the first time in the delivery room – I was induced two weeks before my due date – but it felt like I knew her forever. She was very sweet and had a calming presence. She massaged me, guided me through the breathing exercises and helped me cope with the pain.”
Cohen says numerous studies have documented that with the support of a doula, women are less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and report having a more positive childbirth experience. While the statistics are favorable, Cohen adds that it is not all about the numbers. “This is about providing support for women during a life-changing and physically overwhelming time,” she says. “We are in the delivery room as much as possible, but there are women who need more. Having that extra person completely dedicated to them really improves the outcome of birth and can make a big difference.”
The volunteer doula program gives priority to women who are in the most need, such as those who lack support or who have special health risks. Midwives identify patients who would benefit from a volunteer doula and coordinate efforts with Birthing Gently.
For more information about the volunteer doula program, contact Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more articles from the 02/14/14 Hotline issue.