A Changing Force: Carolee Dunivan

April 6, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Margie Levy

Nominee: Carolee Dunivan, Certified Nurse Midwife

Carolee Dunivan, Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), left a successful midwifery practice at UCLA to make many positive changes at one of LA’s largest and most protocol driven hospitals. She gave up being supported and appreciated as a CNM to enter an unfamiliar environment where some some may not have been too happy to see a midwife enter their domain.

Up until then, there were no midwives at this hospital, either on staff or with privileges. The hospital was not always an easy place to deliver for women wanting a birth experience free of interventions. Due to lack of choices in LA, women found themselves delivering there with care providers that they liked, but in a hospital that did not always support the choices they made to help them achieve an unmedicated birth.

It has been about  four years since Carolee began this mission and I’ll tell you, she must have the patience of a saint! She has ever so slowly made many changes for the better. As a doula, I used to be very concerned when going to a birth there, and now I look forward to it. One of the key changes is that the residents are now learning from CNMs about the process of normal birth.

I witnessed a resident catch a 9 pound, 8 oz. baby under Carolee’s instruction. She had him put the betadine away, and keep his hands out of this mother while the she delivered her baby onto the bed which was not broken down. Carolee had the resident gently support the baby as it came out and onto the bed without manual manipulation.

This mother actually chose to deliver on her back, but once the baby was out, Carolee told the resident to help the father put the baby on the mother’s tummy. She also stopped the resident from clamping and cutting the cord immediately (as the mother wished). The resident admitted that he had never done a birth like that before and I’m thinking that he did not even know it was possible.

I imagine that his faith in a mother’s ability to birth her own baby (even a big one) without intervention was completely changed that night. I can also imagine that if this is just one birth that I witnessed like this, how many other residents Carolee has impacted. I realize that these new residents will choose to practice how they will, but at least they have seen more of what is possible, and Carolee is responsible for that.

This is a huge hospital with many, many students and residents. And now, the residents have an better opportunity to learn that women can deliver their babies without medical interventions if they wish to, thanks to Carolee Dunivan.

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