SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Caretakers who assist and support pregnant women and new mothers through the birth process are concerned Mercy hospitals will take steps to limit their access to the delivery room.

These caretakers–or doulas– help provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth. Scientific trials have shown doula care can improve physical and psychological health for both the mother and baby.

However, local doulas worry a policy change could cause obstacles.

Mercy released the following statement:

“Mercy Hospital Springfield welcomes doulas and has procedures in place to ensure that doulas who come into our facility to support laboring mothers have the proper training and certifications. We’ve worked with both the Doula Foundation and Family Birth and Wellness to identify appropriate credentials, including DONA, CAPPA and BEST. Other certifications will be considered. Doulas who wish to be part of the birthing team must submit their certification for review.”

Kaylen King is a postpartum doula and owner of Flourish Family Doulas. She is concerned the doula community is being left in the dark on whether or not Mercy will create more restrictions. Some Springfield doulas have said they have been questioned about their certification and sometimes turned away because they are not certified through Doulas of North America (DONA).

“Just with our little team that we have, there are some of us that are DONA certified, which is the organization Mercy is preferring these days,” said King. “But there are also other organizations that our doulas have been certified through.”

Other organizations include Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) and BEST. King says each of these organizations offers different pieces of training and techniques.

“There’s not one standard organization that we are required to go through,” said King. “When you suddenly have a policy change that affects pregnant women, a lot of times these women come to us when they are newly pregnant so they have been with us for nine months. We have formed that relationship, we have been talking about what they want from their birth and they’ve already paid us.”

King says they have tried to contact different people from Mercy to clarify if there will be a policy change but didn’t receive a response.

“If there is a policy change is there going to be a buffer period where we can obtain that training, because to get certified in this it is not a quick or cheap process,” said King.

To become a certified doula, the process takes at least six months. King says the doula community just wants clarification on what the policy is now.

“There were rumors that they decided to make a policy because people were abusing the term doula during COVID-19,” said King. “Like we want to make sure that these people who are coming in are actual doulas and I can understand that. There has just been no communication and we don’t know what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen.”

King says there are so many different programs for those wanting to become doulas that it seems unfair the hospital will only accept one or two specific organizations.