By Melissa L. Harley, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), LCCE, DONA International Director of Marketing and Public Relations

According to results from our 2016 DONA International member-wide survey, DONA International membership reported strong interest in several causes important to our work as doulas and the bigger picture of maternal health care.

The most important causes to our membership included general public awareness and education about doulas, health insurance reimbursement for doulas services, and other maternal/child health issues.

As we know, countless scientific trials examining doula care demonstrate remarkably improved physical and psychological outcomes for both mother and baby, thereby positively impacting the wellbeing of the entire family.

Moving forward as an organization and taking the feedback from our survey to heart, DONA International will begin to pursue new opportunities for advocacy efforts.  You may have heard that an advocacy committee is forming and will be working to not only increase awareness and education of doulas, but it will also look for specific causes that can make a difference for our doulas and for maternity health care in general.

Recently, our board of directors kicked off our advocacy efforts by attending a meeting on Capitol Hill.  The invitation to attend and participate in the bipartisan Congressional Caucus Meeting on Maternity Care by staff of U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), aligned perfectly with our desire to increase advocacy and awareness around doula support.

About the Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care (and excerpt from their press release):

The goal of the Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care is to raise awareness about important and timely maternity care-related issues, and highlight challenges facing America’s maternity care system. Caucus members will promote cost-effective and optimal outcomes for both high- and low-risk pregnancies by highlighting bipartisan policy solutions based on the best available evidence.

Each year, approximately 4,000,000 women give birth in this country. The U.S. spends significantly more per capita on childbirth than any other industrialized nation. However, despite this investment, America continues to rank far behind almost all other developed countries in birth outcomes for both mothers and babies.

During their first year in existence, this Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care has been working to learn about issues important to the professional and advocacy communities, and focused on growing membership in the caucus. As 2016 came to a close, it was the perfect time for the caucus to widen their reach and to invite key organizations together to discuss caucus goals and efforts moving into 2017.

About the meeting:


DONA International Board of Directors Members, Ravae Sinclair and Virginia Rivenbark take a quick selfie on Capitol Hill.

In November 2016, DONA International President, Virginia Rivenbark, and DONA International Intercultural Director, Ravae S.M. Sinclair represented DONA International at this meeting.

In addition to DONA International, there was a diverse coalition of maternal health representatives in attendance, including names such as American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology(ACOG), American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), March of Dimes, Lamaze International, Breastfeeding USAPreeclampsia Society, Centering Healthcare Institute, Childbirth Connections, National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM) and other maternal health specialists.

The meeting was an opportunity for DONA International to network with fellow maternity care organizations and lawmakers and to share about the mission and vision of our organization.  DONA International enthusiastically shared goals and concerns for maternal health and doula support in 2017.  After each organization shared its top priorities for 2017, a discussion ensued about how each organization can work together on areas of maternal health to make progress happen faster. A top priority for each group included educating U.S. Congressional members on maternal health issues.

What’s next?

DONA International looks forward to having discussions with our members about international maternal health concerns, and our leaders plan to share our concerns and priorities with the Maternity Caucus members in 2017.  Our advocacy committee will be working to grow and begin to plan strategically as we build on the solid foundation that has been laid before us.

It’s an exciting time to be a doula and to be a DONA International member.  We would invite members who have skills, expertise or passion that could be helpful for our advocacy efforts to join us.  We want to hear from you!

Together, our doulas and leaders are collectively furthering the mission and vision of DONA International and bringing awareness to the documented maternal health benefits of the role of the doula in communities, with lawmakers, and with the world. Truly we are making a difference for families worldwide.

Want to get involved?  Email the Advocacy Committee Chair.