Local doula lobbies legislators on Capitol Hill

November 9, 2017

Kathleen Whittam, LCCE, CD (DONA), a Lewes resident and owner of Kathleen Whittam-Delaware Doula, attended the Lamaze 2017 Advocacy Summit: Advancing Safe and Healthy Birth, held Oct. 24 in Washington, D.C. The objectives of the summit were to increase awareness of Lamaze, and to ask for congressional support for public policy to increase access to evidence-based childbirth education and the inclusion of childbirth education as part of the comprehensive prenatal care models.

Once recognized only as breathing techniques for labor, Lamaze is now the leader in evidence-based childbirth education with a mother-centered focus. "Childbirth education helps women make informed choices about birth," said Whittam. "It decreases unnecessary interventions, which lowers cost, and decreases risks for mothers and babies." Data from Lamaze International's national parent survey shows that Lamaze participants have a cesarean rate 13 percent lower than the national rate.

While in Washington, Whittam met with the offices of Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.). Blunt Rochester is co-sponsoring HR 1318/S 112, Preventing Maternal Death Act. The United States is the only industrialized country with a rising maternal mortality rate. To add to this problem, maternal deaths are grossly underreported, as hospitals are not required to report maternal death statistics. When researching maternal deaths and population statistics, Delaware as a whole is often left out of the data completely.

Dr. Neel Shah of Harvard Medical School spoke at the summit and stressed that the best way to address the maternal death rate was to reduce cesarean birth rates. Research shows that the No. 1 factor for having a cesarean birth is not age, health, or economic state, but the hospital in which one gives birth. Students who take Lamaze Childbirth Education classes are given evidenced-based training and are taught about the importance of discernment when choosing care providers, ultimately leading them to become better health consumers for life.

Whittam also spoke with Tiffany Johnson, a legislative fellow from Coons' office. Coons is co-sponsoring bill S 1045, Save Women's Preventative Care Act. Lamaze is a signed stakeholder in supporting this bill, which is designed to ensure that federal law explicitly requires all health plans to cover essential maternal health services, including providing lactation support to all women. Johnson expressed that Coons appreciates support from Lamaze and will continue to work toward legislation that protects mothers and infants in Delaware and across the country.

Delaware Doula 
Kathleen Whittam is a DONA-certified doula, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and the Lamaze State Champion for Delaware. She has been a doula for 15 years and a childbirth educator for the last seven. She teaches private childbirth education classes and provides professional labor support as a doula, serving women throughout Delaware. The Delaware Doula philosophy is that all women deserve to feel safe, supported, and respected during labor. More information can be found at Whittam resides in Lewes with her husband and three children.