Free help with pregnancy “Doulas” are ready to assist Hudson County women

Pregnant women who have been directly affected financially or emotionally by the Sept. 11 attacks of the World Trade Center can benefit from the services of professional caretakers for free.

The Doulas of North America are offering their services to pregnant women in Hudson County. Doulas, a term from ancient Greek meaning “mothering mothers,” are non-medical assistants who are trained and experienced in providing continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a woman before, during and immediately following childbirth.

Debra Pascali-Bonaro, director of MotherLove, Inc., an organization based in River Vale, N.J. that provides doulas for New Jersey residents, said the free services can save pregnant women substantial stress and financial burdens. Those eligible to participate in the program are pregnant women in North Jersey with due dates through June of 2002, who have lost their partners as a result of the tragic events in New York City.

“This is a way to give back to the community and for us to do our part in helping women with the miracle of birth,” Pascali-Bonaro said during an interview last week.

Ordinarily, the fees for a doula range from $100 to $1,000. These services include home care, accompaniment during childbirth and post childbirth care. In addition, several massage therapists, lactation consultants and chiropractors have offered their time free of charge.

Pascali-Bonaro is a professional doula trainer and a board member of the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS), which is a group of individuals and international organizations with concern for the care and well-being of mothers, babies and families.

“Our mission is to promote the wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs,” Pascali-Bonaro said. “This model focuses on prevention and wellness as the alternatives to high-cost screening, diagnosis and treatment programs.”

Margot Spidle, spokeswoman for the March of Dimes of North Jersey, a non-profit voluntary health organization whose mission is to prevent birth defects and infant mortality through programs of research, education, community, services and advocacy, calls the services offered by Pascali-Bonaro “a tremendous benefit for women who are enduring pregnancy alone.”

“To have someone there to comfort and guide you through the miracle of birth is an enormous gift,” Spidle said during an interview.

Most women who lost their spouses in the WTC attacks likely have relatives to help them around the home, but through time, those relatives may need to return to work, leaving the woman alone during the day. There are approximately 35 to 40 doulas in New Jersey, and according to Pascali-Bonaro, families in Hoboken and Jersey City often call requesting their services.

“People in those cities can take advantage of this opportunity,” she said.

Studies have found that women who have a doula present during pregnancy have a shorter labor and require less medication, said Pascali-Bonaro. And doulas are also helpful in educating those who will be caring long-term for the woman after childbirth.

“We help make a more positive experience and relationship between a mother and her baby,” she said. “We teach family members basic concepts to help the woman recover better.”

To contact Pascali-Bonaro about the doulas, call (201) 358-2703 or e-mail her at The telephone number for the March of Dimes’ North Jersey chapter is (973) 882-0700.


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