KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — As doulas are unregistered, it is an offence for them to provide midwifery services, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said today.
He cited Section 14(1) of the Midwives Act 1966 that imposes a punishment of an RM2,000 fine, maximum one year’s jail, or both on unregistered individuals who practice midwifery.
“In Malaysia, for now, doulas are not registered with any organisation. The training and services they provide are also unclear,” Dr Adham told Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii during Minister’s Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat today.
“If they wish to provide services as companions, they must undergo training and follow set guidelines and policies. A doula is prohibited from giving medical advice or advice related to pro-natural birthing or gentle birthing.”
Dr Yii had asked the minister about the government’s plan to regulate the doula trend in Malaysia to prevent a rise in unsafe births and preventable maternal and child mortality.
The health minister stressed that doulas are mere home birth companions who are not supposed to give medical advice, but only to give mental, physical, and emotional support during a woman’s birth and confinement period.
Those helping low-risk women who choose home births must follow the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) guidelines on the management of home births.
“The presence of trained health workers is necessary for home births (including for low-risk cases). This is so that the health workers can immediately act to give emergency assistance should any complications with the baby and mother arise during or after birth,” said Dr Adham.
He added that since 2012, MOH has included a mother-friendly care component in its Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative that encourages a companion during birth to provide emotional and physical support.
A doula won a defamation lawsuit against a doctor last month, where she accused the doctor of defaming her by implying that she had influenced a mother to continue with a home water birth that led to the baby’s death. The High Court in Johor Baru had ordered Dr Sakinah Sulong to pay Masyitha Md Hassan RM200,000 in damages.