Monday, March 10, 2008

Finding my Niche: Volunteering with CIMS

Since my initiation to birth activism after the traumatic birth of my son, I started searching for my niche in the birth community. The order of activities I considered was midwife, then doula, then Trust Birth facilitator, researcher, blogger, donor to birth advocacy organizations, Birth Network facilitator, website administrator for a maternity care rating system, and support group leader for women with PTSD after childbirth. One by one, I evaluated the resources and ability I had to do those activities; knowing I couldn't do all of them and be a mom, and a wife and a graduate student. I chose to do what I could in the meantime and that's when I started this blog. Someday, I may pursue more specialized training in the area but I'm aware that this is not the right time in life for me to do so. Then I discovered the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) and decided to work as a volunteer with them.

CIMS is currently working on the Transparency in Maternity Care Project, also known as the Birth Survey. This is what the website says about the purpose of the project:

We believe that women of childbearing age must have access to information that will help them choose maternity care providers and institutions that are most compatible with their own philosophies and needs. We hope that the Transparency in Maternity Care Project will provide information that will help women make fully informed maternity care decisions.

At the heart of the project is an on-going, online consumer survey, The Birth Survey, that asks women to provide feedback about their birth experience with a particular doctor or midwife and within a specific birth environment. Responses will be made available online to other women in their community who are deciding where and with whom to birth. Paired with this experiential data will be official statistics from state departments of health listing obstetrical intervention rates at the facility level.

A few days before I discovered this project, I had thought to myself that expecting families needed to have a consumer feedback system in place for maternity care providers in the US, so families could have experiential information and recommendations from other mothers who received care from maternity care providers in their community. So I started searching the web to see if anything like I was envisioning already existed (I'm good at coming up with ideas that are already in the works, and there's no point in reinventing the wheel to find out someone has a better model than me). I was pleased to learn that CIMS has had this project going for the last two years.

They are currently running a pilot of the survey in New York City and plan to make the survey available in August of this year to every women in the US who has given birth in the last 3 years. Women looking for maternity care will be able to view customizable reports once others have completed the survey.

I am pleased to be able to put my interest and skills to work on this project. CIMS is also looking for volunteers across the country who are interested in publicizing the project and its importance for childbearing families. Bloggers, community and online forum participants are encouraged to get the word out to women.

To become a volunteer contact:

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