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The March for Moms:Doulas, Advocacy and Change

The March for Moms wasn’t a march. It was a peaceful gathering of people (doulas, doctors, Moms, midwives, Dads, advocates) who care deeply about how the broken maternity care system in the USA affects women and families.  According to the CDC there are 700 pregnancy related deaths per year,  many of them preventable.

I was somewhat disappointed to not see millions on the National Mall. Then again, how many people have any clue what is happening in maternity care?

It isn’t on your radar unless you are pregnant, your family member or friend is pregnant, or you are a doula, nurse, midwife, lactation counselor, or other birth worker.

I heard speaker after speaker share their story of survival of childbirth, or the tragic preventable death of a loved one; a daughter, a wife. There were also a couple of stories of the death of a newborn baby from medical complications that could have been treated.

Placenta acreta, hemorrhaging, heart failure, preterm birth, death, near death. These are the stories I listened to on the National Mall on May 6. I also listened to Dr. Neel Shah, and Dr. Eugene Declercq as they shared some of the statistics, and the work they do on behalf of the MotherBaby and Family.

Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of pregnancy related deaths?

And that about 50% of the deaths occur in the fourth trimester, after the baby is born?

Did you know that black women are 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy related complications than white women?

And in New York the black women are 12 times more likely to die?

The cesarean-section rate has risen 500% since the 1970s, and only 6% of women surveyed in Listening to Mothers used a doula for their birth. Doulas were mentioned quite a bit as a valuable and significant member of the maternity care team.

Induction rates are high. I am not sure of the percentage. Like any other intervention, it can be a life saving measure when used appropriately on an individual basis. Many people are under the illusion that inducing mothers with hypertension, and pre-eclampsia prevents death.  NOT TRUE!! More women die of pre-eclampsia after birth.

Several people spoke about the lack of care and observation of women after birth. There is so much attention paid to the baby, to be sure s/he is okay. What about the newborn mother?

In almost all the stories the doctors and clinical professionals kept telling these mothers their symptoms were normal. Many were left untreated for hours and days before tragedy struck, leading to death. In one story of severe postpartum depression, after failing a screen and in tears, the mother was sent home untreated. She did live to tell her story.  How could this be in the USA?

There is a lot of good news!! There are quite a few bills in the legislature that we can demand be passed. You can do something about changing the maternity care system, and providing equal access and support. Go here to check out the bills, and ask your representatives to support them. Of course, you can work on your local level to gather all the stakeholders and develop a plan of action.

ACOG just came out with new postpartum care guidelines. They are finally talking about mothers being seen at three weeks, not 6, and a continuous care plan. Read the new ACOG Bulletin.  AWHONN has a great handout on warning signs for new mothers. Doulas, you can share that with all your clients.

I want to see the National Mall filled with people overflowing into the streets, when The March for Moms happens again in 2019,  Are you with me? I am planning to help in any way to increase awareness about this United States travesty, this broken maternity care system.

We are a nation rich in resources, and technology. Our health care industry puts profits over lives, and technology is being overused and in some instances underutilized to save lives.  It is past time for a change.

I do hope you will join in spreading awareness and getting involved on your local level, or nationally. Working together, collaboratively we can create a shift. Doulas have a unique role in education and advocacy.

I am so excited to see what the future holds.


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