How doulas help women with maternal health

Doula Nicole Buratti has a special connection to the little girls she was in the delivery room for when they were born.

“It’s an honor, it’s truly an honor. You get to see a person come into the world and take his or her first breath,” Buratti said.

“A few months into my first pregnancy I started to really get fearful of losing control of my experience, and I didn’t know what a doula was. I never heard of a doula before,” said mother Alyssa Vance.

“A doula is an informational, educational, and emotional support person for a pregnant woman, or even a woman who wants to be pregnant and for postpartum,” Buratti said.

Buratti is the owner of Bend and Blossom and has attended about 300 births. She first completed a weekend training course and an extensive take-home test for the certification. Now she trains others interested in the profession.

“New Jersey has a really high C-section rate, and studies have shown women who have third-party support from a doula, not a loved one, because that connection is very different,” Buratti said. “So studies show that we can reduce the C-section rate and unnecessary intervention.”

“The number one thing that I think is so important is just her presence. Just having her there is such a sense of security to me,” said Vance. “She makes me feel so comfortable. It’s like no matter what happens, I know I have her there.”

The fee ranges, says Buratti. Typically they’re anywhere from $1,200 to $1,900 or more. The New Jersey Department of Health is devoting $450,000 to implement a doula pilot program in municipalities with high black infant mortality rates.

“That’s something that, I think, everyone needs. You deserve a doula. You’re the most important person when you’re giving birth,” Vance said.

Buratti typically checks in with her clients weekly. She says they discuss and address any of the woman’s fears. She’s teaching dad Jonathan Vance a few comfort measures, like massage techniques.

“It makes me feel very comfortable. It makes me feel that there is someone else there that is very knowledge about obviously the pregnancy and the situation,” he said.

The doula and mom also spend time writing a birth plan, which is a list of the woman’s preferences during labor, delivery and what might happen after the birth. The top of Alyssa’s list? No epidural both times.

“I won’t say it’s easy, and I try not to romanticize it, but both of my births were so incredible,” Vance said. “They were hard, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret it and I’ll definitely do it a third time.”

“In the delivery room, we are the support person for the laboring woman, obviously, but we’re also the team player,” said Buratti. “We don’t get in the way of the medical team. We’re there to bring everyone together. Typically we just kind of take the back seat, get a feel for her needs. We’re able to anticipate her needs before she asks for them.”

Vance isn’t due until August. Her doula patiently waits for the call, eager to meet the new addition.

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