The increasing amount of doulas hired by pregnant mothers is compromising patient care and reflects badly on the current level of service provided by the NHS, a doctor has claimed.
Dr Abhijoy Chakladar, a trainee in anaesthesia, said doulas, who act as pregnancy and birth partners, are not regulated and should not be involved in medical decisions.
He added: “This trend may be a sad reflection of failures in the delivery of medical and midwifery care, a sticking plaster concealing greater problems.”
Furthermore, the “doula business” could be exploiting women’s fears about the quality of NHS hospitals and the “seemingly limitless market for birth-related products and services”.
The Royal College of Midwives responded by saying there was ‘no doubt’ some doulas were performing a role that should be carried out by midwives.
Writing online in the British Medical Journal, Dr Chakladar, who works at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex, said a doula had compromised the care he offered one patient.
He gave the patient a top-up of epidural pain relief during labour after she complained of discomfort.
“I gave the top-up and advised that she turn to lie on her side,” he wrote.
“At this point the doula interjected to say that the mother was comfortable as she was and asked whether repositioning was necessary. I said it was for the top-up to be most effective.”
The doula spoke to the patient and told the doctor she had decided not to move.
Doulas are not usually medically qualified but have been growing in popularity.