Melanie Sumersille, CNM, MSN, FACNM, and patient Jessica Holzer with her new bundle of joy, Ainsley.
For most women, having a baby is one of life’s most memorable moments. However, the hours and minutes leading up to delivery can be some of life’s most challenging.
A new volunteer birth doula program at NYU Winthrop Hospital is helping to provide mothers and their partners with additional support (outside of the already stellar clinical care for which the Hospital is known) to improve birthing outcomes. The program, conceptualized by Long Island Doula Association Inc. (LIDA) and midwife Melanie Sumersille, CNM, MSN, FACNM, involves both physical and emotional support provided by specially trained doula volunteers. Working alongside of the clinical team of doctors, nurses and support staff in NYU Winthrop’s Labor and Delivery Suite, these specially trained doulas are committed to providing non-medical services to comfort and support mothers before, during and just after childbirth.
“NYU Winthrop Hospital was the first Hospital on Long Island to institute a volunteer doula program,” said Ms. Sumersille, who was recently named a Fellow of the American College of Nurse-Midwives – a prestigious honor bestowed upon midwives who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, clinical excellence, outstanding scholarship, and professional achievement. “There are many medical benefits to having such a program at NYU Winthrop. Furthermore, patients don’t have to be working with a midwife to benefit from using a doula.”
“A summary of published studies by the Cochrane database showed that doula support during labor can improve outcomes for women and their infants, including shorter labors and decreased cesarean delivery rates,” said Anthony Vintzileos, MD, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Winthrop Hospital. “Also, doula support can decrease regional analgesia as well as decrease five-minute Apgar score rates – a test which quickly evaluates a newborn’s physical condition to determine if there is an immediate need for additional care.”
“We also see increased rates of vaginal deliveries and the promotion of breastfeeding and maternal-infant bonding positively impacted in patients who have a birth doula,” added Ms. Sumersille.
To become a volunteer birth doula at NYU Winthrop, interested community members must undergo a rigorous multi-step training and certification process by LIDA. After fulfilling the various requirements, the volunteer doulas are then certified and ready to support patients in the clinical setting.
The benefits of the program for patients are vast. One patient recently commented how it was, “a very calming experience to have the doula present – talking with me, helping me through the pain of contractions, and making me comfortable throughout the labor process.&rdquo
Another patient, Jessica Holzer, remarked how grateful she was for the “extra set of hands” that helped her through some of the hardest parts of labor.
“Having a doula in the room enabled my husband to be entirely focused on me, encouraging me throughout labor and delivery. The doula performed massage and helped me with my breathing techniques.
This is such a worthy program that ensured a smooth delivery for both me and my baby. I hope more women are able to benefit from it and that more hospitals see this as a model initiative,” said Ms. Holzer.
NYU Winthrop currently has over 20 doulas who are available seven days a week to provide non-medical support to patients at no cost. NYU Winthrop, in conjunction with LIDA, has trained over 60 labor support doulas who volunteer 100 hours over three month rotations. For more information about upcoming training sessions, call 1-866-WINTHROP.