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How Meghan Markle’s decision could improve maternal healthcare for everyone

Pregnant woman with heart shapesMeghan Markle is engaging a doula for the birth of her baby and we’re thrilled. This is why…

Firstly, we wish her, and every expectant mother, the best birth experience possible. The research shows unequivocally that doula care increases the chance of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for both mother and baby, so Meghan is giving herself and her baby a great head start.

Sadly, it’s a head start not every mother-to-be has access to. The issue is two-fold.

One: Not many people know what a doula is or how they can help. There’s confusion, even within the health system, about the difference between a doula and a midwife. Midwives provide clinical care and support, though a woman is likely to see several midwives during her pregnancy, birth and post-partum. While the role of the doula is to act as a constant, providing whatever practical, emotional and physical support the woman and her partner require.

We’re sure Meghan’s decision will spark greater awareness about how doulas can work alongside a woman’s medical team to help increase the likelihood of positive birth and wellbeing outcomes.

Two: Not everyone can afford a doula. In Australia, as in many parts of the world, doulas aren’t funded through the health system. Yet, the benefits of using a doula are clear. In labour, having a doula can lead to a 50% decrease in caesarean sections, a 60% decrease in the use of epidurals and a 25% decrease in the length of labour (Klaus, Kennell and Klaus 2002).

Research has shown that all birthing women should have access to a doula, but most especially, women experiencing social and financial disadvantage. Already at greater risk of medical intervention at birth, of experiencing postnatal depression and anxiety, or having their babies admitted to neonatal intensive care, women with complex needs would benefit the most from doula care, but are least able to afford it.

For the women we work with, paying for a doula is simply not possible. They may be experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, family violence or come from a migrant/refugee background.

Birth for Humankind provides free birth support and education to women with complex needs, to help improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for both mother and baby.

Our hope is that Meghan’s decision to use a doula will shine a light, not just on the benefits of using a doula, but on the question of equitable maternal health care.

Because every mother has the right to have the care and support she needs to make empowered choices, for the best birth and early parenting experience possible.

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The Bub Hub is proud to support Birth For Humankind

Birth For Humankind mobilises and supervises a team of volunteer doulas who give of their time to provide free one-to-one continuous care through the perinatal period for women facing socio-economic disadvantage.

You can donate or find out more at www.birthforhumankind.org

 

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