Maternal care in Ohio is in dire need of improvement. Out of 50 states, Ohio ranks number 21 in maternal mortality. In addition, Ohio has a pre-term birth rate of 10.9 percent. For this reason, the March of Dimes gave the state of Ohio a D+ grade for preterm births. The state is looking to improve these numbers with the help of doula services.
House Bill 142, which has received bipartisan support, was passed in the House on June 1, and now awaits a decision in the Senate. The bill would allow doula services to be covered under Medicaid. It would also set up a registry of doulas, along with a board that would oversee certification programs as part of maternal and infant support programs.
“Doulas can assist parents through labor and birth by providing accurate information and continuous physical and emotional support, regardless of hospital shift changes,” said Christine Scarlett, RN, BSN and Toledo area doula. Scarlett is also a CBC, or certified lactation counselor, and La Leche League Leader with extensive experience working with moms and infants.
“Statistically, women with continuous labor support have better birth outcomes, which include fewer cesarean sections, a lower rate of vacuum and forceps deliveries, use of less pain medication and epidural anesthesia, greater levels of breastfeeding success, and higher levels of satisfaction with their childbearing experience,” Scarlett said.
Minority women have significantly higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, and may not have access to important medical care. Doulas can act as a health advocate for these mothers, providing emotional and physical support during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.
“I am both a Certified Birth Doula (CBD) and a Certified Postpartum Doula (PCD) in order to provide the full range of services for the childbearing year,” Scarlett said. “Birth doulas usually meet with pregnant women to help them clarify what kind of birth experience they are looking for, then meet them while in labor and continuously support them during the birth process through recovery and initiation of breastfeeding and bonding during the Golden Hour following birth.”
Scarlett said that doulas also meet with the mother and family after the birth to assess what kind of in-home help the family may need while adjusting to life with a newborn.
“First time moms are more likely to want help with learning how to feed and care for their baby. Experienced parents are often more in need of help with siblings, meal prep, errands and household management.”
Providing proper support for mothers will lead to healthier births and better beginnings for infants, which also benefits the entire community.
“Maternal and infant care is an important issue because the health of the mother-baby dyad has a ripple effect on the entire family unit as well as the workplace if the mom is employed outside the home,” Scarlett said. “Good support during pregnancy, birth and postpartum can prevent some perinatal mood disorders and lead to a positive transition to parenthood.”