At the recent graduation, the members of the first class of Doulas were photographed. They are: front row, left to right, Angela Smith, Doula mentor, Rebekah Cooper, Elisha Vega, Ana Mendes, Sarah Cooper, Flor Ortega and Amanda Leon de Gavarrete. Back row, left to right, Elizabeth Kertesz, Lilys Duran, Bernilda Quinones, Mildred Montero and Christine Novak, Doula supervisor. Yesenia Melger was not available for the photograph.

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Doug Harris

Ghilianie Soto

Experienced mothers give expectant women the mothering they need

There are 54 new mothers in and around Elizabeth who are more confident and who know more about the experience of pregnancy, labor and birth thanks to a program called Mothering Mothers/Apoyando Madres. Most of these mothers receive their prenatal care at the Trinitas Regional Medical Center's Women's Health Center at 65 Jefferson Street in Elizabeth.

At the end of the first year of this project, funded by an Access to Care grant from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, a total of 92 women have enrolled for these services. Through The Elizabeth Community-Based Doula Program, these mothers receive free of charge a series of prenatal and postpartum home visits, as well as continuous support throughout labor and birth.

Mothering Mothers/Apoyando Madres has prepared a team of 11 women from in and around Elizabeth who know their community and the needs of low income women to provide education and support for pregnant women. This team was recently celebrated at a graduation ceremony that took place in Hillside at which Gloria Rodriguez, DSW, Assistant State Commissioner of Health for Family Health Services, delivered the commencement address.

"Nearly 50 HealthConnect One Community-Based Doula Programs are replicating the evidence-based national model and we are very pleased to be the first replication site in New Jersey," points out Christine Novak, RNC-OB, Doula Supervisor, Gateway Northwest Maternal and Child Heath Network. "As graduates of HealthConnect One's Community-Based Doula Curriculum, these 11 women are the first community doulas in New Jersey to participate in this evidence-based training program, which has been evolving since 2000."

One such doula is Lilys Duran, a member of the Radiology Department at Trinitas for 12 years. A native of the Dominican Republic who is fluent in Spanish and English, Lilys is a perfect candidate to be doula within the Elizabeth community. When she became aware of the opportunity to become a doula, she believed that her own experience as the mother of three would be more than suitable for her to take on training as a doula.

"Attending the year-long community-based doula training has had a profound affect on my life and the lives of all the women I serve as a doula," says Lilys. "I help vulnerable women in our community learn about their bodies and babies, labor and birth choices, the importance of skin-to-skin contact with their newborns, and breastfeeding. It has been very rewarding for me to make a difference in the lives of women and their babies, to help mothers-to-be have a positive birth experience."

Mothers who have benefitted from the assistance of doulas believe that they are much better off. Positive comments about improved understanding of their pregnant bodies, greater confidence in asking questions during pre-natal clinic visits, improved coping abilities while under stress, better understanding of the process of labor, the benefits of skin-to-skin bonding with their newborns, understanding the natural ability of newborns to respond to parents' faces and voices, and improved ability to take care of their babies all attest to the effectiveness of the Mothering Mothers/Apoyando Madres Program.

As Marie Hogarty, RNC-OB, MSN, Program Manager, asserts: "These client responses tell us this program is working. New mothers who may have few family members nearby during pregnancy and birth and then during the first critical weeks with their newborns learn that doulas are compassionate, caring and knowledgeable women who can make their transition to motherhood much easier."


About Trinitas Regional Medical Center
Trinitas Regional Medical Center (TRMC), a major center for comprehensive health services for those who live and work in Central New Jersey, is a Catholic teaching medical center sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth in partnership with Elizabethtown Healthcare Foundation. With 10 Centers of Excellence across the continuum of care, Trinitas has distinguished itself in cardiology, cancer care, behavioral health, renal care, nursing education, diabetes management, wound healing and sleep medicine.

Posted: August 24, 2012

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