Rumors that Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle sought assistance from midwives and doulas to give birth to her first child have spiked the interest of mothers-to-be in these options, associations say.
While Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle giving birth spawned headlines around the world Monday, it was her birth plan—which reportedly included doulas and midwives—that ignited interest among pregnant women in using those professionals, said the American College of Nurse Midwives and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA).
“I think it’s a really positive impact to highlight this as a viable option for all women, not just celebrities,” said Michelle Palmer, chair of ACNM’s home and birth center committee. “I think we’ll see an uptick in people saying, ‘Wait a minute; this is an option for me.’”
Kate Nyberg, CAPPA’s senior advisor for labor doula programs, agreed. “I definitely think that it helps,” Nyberg said. “When we see high-profile people birthing with doulas, it is beneficial.”
Nyberg noted that as celebrities use doulas, more people get familiar with them. Still, she is often asked how doulas differ from midwives. Whereas midwives are healthcare professionals who perform exams and deliver babies, doulas provide non-medical support.
“Doulas have a similar philosophy to [midwives],” Nyberg said. “We do not do anything medical. We are not taking blood pressure; we are not checking dilation. We are providing information on options, providing labor comfort techniques, like sitting on a birth ball or squeezing hips. We are supporting the partner and helping them know what to do.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had vowed not to share details of the birth, and at press time, they had kept that promise, offering only that Markle was in her home with son Archie a few hours after delivering him. However, media reports said Markle’s plan for a home birth was scrapped and she went to a hospital to have the baby.
Palmer said changing the plan by going to a hospital does not reflect badly on home births; it is a sign that the system works. “It’s not a failure if Meghan needed to transfer to a hospital,” Palmer said. “We need to reframe it. That is a success of how they are able to seamlessly move a person from one setting to another, without it being a big deal.”
Palmer noted that ACNM wants the public to understand that midwives are there to create a healthy birth, no matter where it happens. “We are always doing assessments and basing our choices on the needs of our patient,” she said. Palmer said she has transferred clients to hospitals, and if the birth went smoothly at the hospital, the mother quickly returned home, which would be similar to Meghan’s situation, if she had a hospital birth.
Even days later, the chatter surrounding Archie’s birth is ongoing, exposing more people to the services ACNM and CAPPA members offer, which Nyberg considers a good thing. “I have seen it going around social media like crazy,” she said. “A lot of our doulas are sharing the posts. A lot of midwives are sharing the posts too.”
[Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the difference between midwives and doulas.]