Gamliel: Regulate ‘doula’ childbirth assistants

Health Ministry does not recognize those who encourage women during childbirth as a profession, no idea how many exist in country.

pregnant woman 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [illustrative])
pregnant woman 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [illustrative])
The Health Ministry does not recognize doulas – women (and rarely men) who assist and encourage women during childbirth – as a profession, the ministry said on Tuesday.
Thus it does not know how many there are in the country or what credentials they may have. Nor has the ministry established criteria for who can work as a doula.
The word comes from the ancient Greek term for handmaiden or female slave because their owners used them as labor companions during childbirth. Many women – especially haredi women – hire doulas, since their husbands may not want to be at the delivery because of halachic limitations.
The ministry stated in 2003 that “performing treatment” on a woman during childbirth in a hospital may be done by an accompanying person, but only if the latter is a medical professional. The treatment is the responsibility of the hospital, and so the medical staffers provide it, according to the ministry directive. A person who accompanies the woman in the delivery room is (assumed to be) a spouse or other relative. A nongovernment hospital is permitted to give private medical service, but state institutions are prevented from giving such services, it continues.
MK Gila Gamliel, the deputy minister for the advancement of women, noted the case of a man who called himself a doula and allegedly sexually molested his “clients” before delivery.
Gamliel said that “pregnancy and childbirth are the most sensitive period in the life of a woman and lives of a couple. Medical and paramedical treatment during this time is not only physical but also emotional and mental.”
Gamliel added that trained doulas establish a close relationship with the women they assist. “It is unthinkable that such a sensitive job is completely uncontrolled and that anyone can call herself/himself a doula without having a license that is based on certain credentials,” said Gamliel, who asked the health minister to arrange for doula licenses and supervision as abroad. “If I get no answer, I will initiate legislation.”