By GABRIELLA DRAGONE
PATERSON, NJ – On Friday, The Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey introduced the Community of Caring: The Paterson Doula Cooperative. First Lady Tammy Murphy, along with other health officials, discussed the importance of the Cooperative and doulas.
Doulas are trained to give emotional, physical and informational care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum periods. They are also members of the community who can be trusted to advocate for the needs of expectant mothers and are respected members of the pregnancy care team, providing advocacy and support to parents, the Cooperative website read.
Doulas also help to improve birth outcomes and breastfeeding rates, setting up families for success.
“We are just two days away from Maternal Health Awareness Day and as we work to solve New Jersey’s maternal health crisis, there is no question that doulas are an essential part of our strategy,” Murphy said. “Over these past three years, I have learned so much about the complex problems we face as well as the far-reaching in depth approach we need to take in order to reach our goal as evidenced by the breadth of the nurture NJ maternal health strategic plan. Together we will make New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation to deliver and raise a baby.”
“Paterson, by having this innovative collaboration, is committed to becoming a city of solutions,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said. “If it weren’t for our partners, where would we be?”
The Community of Caring expands access to doula care and provides free community doula training to Paterson residents. One of the programs that doula training follows is HealthConnect One. These community-based doula programs dramatically increase breastfeeding rates and decrease c-section rates, by providing extended, intensive peer-to-peer support to families throughout pregnancy, during labor and birth and into the early postpartum period.
“St. Joseph’s Hospital recently conducted a study and learned that birthing people want to be heard and central in their own birth experience,” Melissa Litwin, Program Director of the Taub Foundation said. “They said that sometimes it feels like the baby is the patient, and they are not central to the process. Doulas are a way to shift that balance helping those giving birth to feel powerful and in control, able to say what they need. A doula is an ally. So we [The Taub Foundation] want to take part in this amazing opportunity for Paterson to lead the way in the state to create a system for doulas for all.”
Doulas are a mitigating factor for maternal mortality, and for many other risks to birthing families, particular in low-income communities and communities of color. The peer-to-peer relationship and continuity of care knit a fabric of support around the family, which has broad and deep impact on a variety of outcomes.
“What makes this program unique is that the community has been involved from the very beginning,” Arelis Martinez, Supervisor at the Partnership for Community Caring: The Paterson Doulas Cooperative said. “While all of these maternal health services are coming to light, why not have this perfect timing, to have this perfect place of birth and individuals in Paterson to receive the proper care.”
“I think if I were to summarize it [the program] in three things, one, it would be happier and healthier moms and happy and healthier babies,” Rania Mustafa, Executive Director of the Palestinian American Community Center said, “Second is there is more representation, so actually having doulas that are from the backgrounds of the pregnant woman and mothers and lastly, just having people actually know what a doula is, want to have a doula and have it more of a societal norm than a societal exception. Those are the three things I look forward to.”
The program began providing services in October 2019, and up to this moment, the program has supported 93 families and has welcomed 87 doula babies and has worked hard for their birthing families to achieve positive outcomes. Increasing their breastfeeding rates was one of their principal goals and about 60% of clients exclusively breastfeed at six weeks and 58% exclusively breastfeed at three months. Their low rate cesarean rate is 8.3%.
“This is free education and free service,” Mariekarl Vilceus-Talty, President and CEO of the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey said. “So if you have friends that have been talking about wanting to be there to help someone through labor, to educate them, to be a postpartum doula, tell them to come to us. I look forward to getting all the applications because I know there’s going to be so many interested people to ensure that our doula program is successful, and that we are changing the paradigm for the women, children and families in Paterson.
For more information visit their website here.