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Doula Program Improves Birth Outcomes & Experiences

The birth of Sebastian Lechuga Ramirez was not the uncomplicated, on-time delivery that his mother Isabel Ramirez Lopez of Albany had hoped for. 

When the due date passed and an induced labor stalled, doula Yesenia Sequera kept the first-time mom involved with making decisions about her labor and explained why the doctor was recommending a C-section. 

“That has a big impact on a mom’s experience of birth,” Sequera said. “I make sure all of her questions are answered.” 

The healthy arrival of a 9 pound, 7 ounce boy is one of the many successes of the expansion of the Community Doula Program, a 2022 Delivery System Transformation pilot project of InterCommunity Health Network Coordinated Care Organization serving Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties. 

Doulas provide emotional and physical support during pregnancy and childbirth. 

“My role is to help the mother so that she has the best possible birth experience and is well set up for early parenting,” Sequera said. 

Through the pilot project, the Community Doula Program was able to train and increase the number of Spanish speaking doulas, particularly in east Linn County and Lincoln County, to serve as health care interpreters. 

The goal is to improve birth outcomes and reduce instances of prematurity, C section and pain medication use. The pilot project expanded doula services already available at hospitals in Albany and Corvallis, where Lopez gave birth, to Lebanon, Lincoln City and Newport. 

As a result, the region now boasts one-third of the total number of doulas working in Oregon. That ensures access for every pregnant member of the coordinated care organization. 

Lopez chose to have a doula so that she could feel prepared for childbirth and being a mom. It was a comfort to her knowing that Sequera would be with her during labor.

Relying on her doula’s experience made everything easier, Lopez said. 

Sequera is bilingual and is often paired with Spanish speaking moms. She meets with each expectant mom twice before birth to build a trusting relationship.

During labor, a doula can lead exercises to help things progress and provide massage for pain relief. At hospitals, translation services through a tablet device are available for medical decisions. Doulas trained as medical interpreters can also interpret when a mother asks. 

“No one wants to be talking through a tablet while they are pushing,” Sequera said. 

Within a few weeks of a baby’s arrival, doulas meet one last time with the new mom and baby for a postpartum checkup. Sequera became a doula after the birth of her daughter.

She wanted to serve Hispanic women in the community to overcome barriers and reduce health inequities. 

“For all moms, the support of a doula is important,” Sequera said. “It starts with having someone there who understands you and knows your culture and needs.” 

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