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Ann Grauer: Self-described "birth junkie."

Grauer finishes term as national doula president

Ann Grauer, president of Doulas of North America (DONA), will leave her post on Sept. 30. Grauer, who lives in Milwaukee, works full-time at the Birthplace at Columbia Hospital and says she plans to still volunteer for DONA.

"I really love working on an international level," says Grauer, who trains doulas at Columbia Hospital and beyond.

Grauer says she was working as a doula long before she knew her passion had a name. Then, in 1992, DONA officially gave the name "doula" -- a Greek word meaning "women serving other women" -- to the hundreds of birth attendants assisting midwives.

"I realized I was already a 'doula' and just didn't know it," she says. "DONA made it possible for me to have a name other than 'birth junkie.'"

Grauer served as DONA's president since 2003, and has been a member of the board for 13 years. After her term is up, she will continue to act as the liaison between DONA and the Maternity Center Association in New York, where a second "Listening to Mothers Survey" is under way.

"Listening to Mothers" surveys American women about their pregnancy, labor and birth, and postpartum experiences. The groundbreaking survey gathers and compiles the data, increasing the understanding of childbearing in the United States, and hopes to improve maternity care and better meet women's needs.

"The survey is really exciting. DONA sponsored the first one in 2000, and there were so many heart wrenching and wonderful and terrible childbirth experiences that deserved to be heard," she says.

Grauer had a variety of birth experiences herself. She is the mother of two children, ages 14 and 17, but had a stillbirth in between. She says having a doula for the stillbirth "made all the difference" and inspired her to become one.

Grauer says Milwaukee is slowly catching on to the need for doulas during births. She says five years ago, the word "doula" didn't appear in mainstream books and magazines, but now it's everywhere.

Grauer guesstimates there are 70-80 doulas in the Milwaukee area, and even more who are not members of DONA.

Although statistics show that having a doula present during a birth can reduce the need for cesarean and therefore lower insurance costs, insurance companies do not pay for doula services and Grauer doesn't see this happening anytime soon.

"I don't want to sound pessimistic, but I don't think insurance companies are going to cover doula costs anytime soon. They have known about doulas and the differences they make in lowering care costs for 15 years but have chose to ignore it," she says.

Grauer says she is surprised other heath care facilities haven't started a doula program like the one at The Birthplace at Columbia, now two-and-a-half years old.

In this program, the hospital pays $225 to the doula and the family pays $75. Families have the opportunity to meet and greet the doulas before the birth. Although they cannot chose a specific doula, the doula who is "on call" stays with the woman (and her partner) during her labor and delivery and helps her to manage her pain through a variety of techniques from movement to massage to psychological encouragement. She also stays with the family for a couple of hours after the baby is born.

"Unfortunately most hospitals are not willing to commit the money to make the program happen and happen right," says Grauer.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Sept. 26, 2005 at 11:28 a.m. (report)

Ann Douglas said: Thank you for this terrific portrait of Ann Grauer. Having had the privilege of meeting her at the DONA International conference this past summer, I think you did a fabulous job of capturing her passion for birth and her commitment to mothers and babies.

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