The New Beginnings Statement of Professionalism provides us with this description of the ethical responsibility of a doula:
“The work of a professional doula can be involved in many experiences that include ethical responsibility. Ethical issues are a part of the work. These can range from how we react when we disagree with other doulas or healthcare professionals to how we view the role of a doula. When ethical standards have been defined, it decreases some of the problems inherent in these dilemmas because it provides guidance on what actions should be taken. Thus, it is important for the professional doula to adhere to a set of ethical standards either set by a certification organization or ones that they have set for themselves. At minimum, a professional doula should adhere to these values: honesty, respect for colleagues (including medical professionals) and clients, accountability, and equal treatment for clients and other members of the birth team.”.
In order to provide guidance for our certified doulas, New Beginnings promotes additional responsibilities. We owe these to ourselves, our clients, and our communities.
Ethical Responsibility to Clients
A New Beginnings Doula respects and honors their client’s needs. Many birthing families need support as they learn to stand up for their own choices. This is particularly important in environments where autonomy is minimized and people are placed in vulnerable positions. Advocacy is an integral part of a doula’s passion and purpose. A New Beginnings doula recognizes that there is a way to advocate which allows their client to voice personal views and preferences. The doula need not resort to passive aggressive behaviors or speaking for the client. They communicate in a way which allows each person to speak for themself and provides opportunities for collaboration with all team members.
When providing services, the New Beginnings doula should clearly state services provided, terms of payment, and refund polices. They should represent themself clearly. This includes letting clients know their education, credentials, and certifications, and only performing services they are qualified to perform. If care is needed outside their scope of practice, then the New Beginnings doula will provide appropriate referrals.
Due to the private and personal nature of this work, creating a trusting relationship between the doula and client is important. Without that trust, a client may not feel comfortable sharing what they need to share in order to ensure the best care possible. Thus, it is expected that the client’s information be kept private and out of the public realm, unless permission has been given to share. Disclosing any information to the family or friends of a client is not appropriate unless permission is given. Also, discussing private information in a public forum or publicly online without permission is not appropriate.
Ethical Responsibility to the Doula Profession
A New Beginnings doula should work to promote the value of doulas within the community, particularly by upholding their standards. A New Beginnings doula upholds the guidelines of a professional doula as outlined in our statement of professionalism. This includes the following commitments:
-to provide care to clients and community with “integrity and morality, altruism, and the promotion of the public good”.
-to do their best to work in a framework of collaboration with other doula businesses or organizations. This will best serve birthing families and communities.
-to live by a set of ethical standards. These include honesty, respect for colleagues (including medical professionals) and clients, accountability, and equal treatment for clients and other members of the birth team.
-to provide quality work and dedicate themselves to the profession of doula-work.
-to add to the profession’s current body of knowledge; gaining an education through certification, mentorships, or field experience. And to stay current on literature as it is published. They also complete continuing education units, according to the rules of their certifying organization.
Ethical Responsibility to Society
A New Beginnings doula helps promote the welfare of parents and babies in their community. Research shows the invaluable service continuous labor support can provide. “Published data indicate that one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula.” (ACOG, 2014). Because of this, a New Beginnings doula works within their community and ensures that doula services are made available to anyone who desires them, regardless of income. They are creative in creating solutions that allow the profession to flourish and meet the needs of all new families.
In some states or countries, a doula is recognized as a mandated reporter for child abuse. In this instance, it is an ethical responsibility of the doula to understand the laws under which they may practice.
Lothian, J. A. (2014). Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery: ACOG and SMFM Change the Game. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 23(3), 115–118. http://doi.org/10.1891/1058-1243.23.3.115
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). Obstetric care consensus no. 1: Safe prevention of the primary cesarean delivery. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 123(3), 693–711