When doulas are working one on one with their clients, whether during pregnancy, birth or postpartum, the doula’s role is one of helping families to find their voice, build their confidence and respect their choices. It is not uncommon for the clients we work with to make choices that are different than the ones that we ourselves might choose to make if this were our birth. But it is not. And that is perfectly fine. It is not our pregnancy, birth or early parenting experience, but rather, it belongs wholly to our client.

Many birth professionals do have strong feelings about the state of maternal-infant care in their communities and in their nation. No one will argue that maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality is in a dismal state. Cesarean rates are too high, and the downstream effects of those surgical births are significant. Families are not supported during the childbearing year. Approximately one in three people report their birth as traumatic. People must return to work shortly after giving birth. Workplaces are not family friendly. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are common and often go untreated. On top of all this, people of color are significantly more impacted by all of these situations and struggle to overcome inequities in care and services. Given these challenges, it is no surprise that doulas want to help improve conditions for people who are pregnant, birthing and parenting. Our role in supporting clients is one of unconditional support. Our own thoughts and opinions about the state of maternity care must be addressed in other ways.

DONA members at MfM 2017

We can and should be activists, just not in the birth room. Outside direct client contact, we should be doing everything we can to improve the outcomes for families in our communities, nationally and worldwide. To support this goal of changing outcomes for parents and babies, DONA International is joining forces with March for Moms for the second year in a row. DONA International is a proud partner with the March for Moms organization.

You are invited to join other DONA International members, supporters and organization leaders by attending March for Moms events in Washington D.C. May 6-8th, 2018. May 6th is the organized march and rally on the National Mall. May 7th is an advocacy prep day in advance of Advocacy Day, May 8th – where attendees will visit with congresspeople to share information and garner support for maternal-infant changes that can improve outcomes for parents and babies. March for Moms is supported by over 23 organizations that are key players in the field of maternal-infant health.

According to MfM Vice President Neel Shah, MD, MPP, FACOG -”

DONA Board and Dr. Neel Shah

“The past year has brought the world a lot of shocking news. One positive consequence of these uncertain times is that it has stoked a fire of activism in a way we have not seen in decades. We are seeing people of all stripes stand up and advocate for the issues they care deeply about.

Here’s the thing: Moms are used to putting themselves last in order to put their families first. We believe it is high time to give our moms the support and public investment they deserve. Right now, one in three Americans is born through major surgery—twice as many as are medically necessary. At the same time, we have the highest rates of maternal death and injury, the lowest birth weights, and the widest disparities in the developed world. If that wasn’t bad enough, we also have the worst paid family leave policies in the developed world.

My colleagues and I believe the United States of America can do a lot better. That’s why we’re going to be on the National Mall on May 6th, 2018.”

For those who are unable to attend scheduled events in Washington D.C., consider organizing a local march in your community under the March for Moms umbrella. Gather colleagues, clients, and other interested groups to create local events that demonstrate the need for change and clearly express the obstacles facing parents and babies today. If you would like to be involved in these activities and work with other DONA participants, please register with March for Moms and let the DONA Advocacy Committee know you plan on participating. That way, they can stay updated on DONA International organizational plans to participate as a group.

If you are not going to the national march, you will be able to help by following the March for Moms webpage and Facebook sites to use a Voter Voice pre-messaged URL link for your congressional representatives to hear from you while many are on the Hill. This link will be made available as MfM nears the Rally week. Additionally, you can sign up for the MfM newsletter that will distribute the Voter Voice link when open. It is also good to be aware that May 6th also kicks off the first annual Maternal Health Awareness week. Another opportunity to raise your voice to help improve conditions for birthing people.

Doulas see firsthand how the current state of maternity care affects families. We have the power to help change a broken system.  We can be vocal and effective birth activists for change. Many DONA members have stepped up to serve on the Advocacy Committee and work on many subcommittees to help in many ways. You are welcome to lean in and join this group doing important work. March for Moms is another way that you can make your voice and your presence count. Whether you choose to head to Washington D.C. or you plan to organize or join a local march in your community, the time to stand up and be counted is now. There is so much value in adding your efforts along with others who are demanding change. Families deserve nothing less and you can help. Thank you.