KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya (pic) says there are doulas (birthing coaches) who advise mothers to have home births without knowing their full medical history, adding that only medical personnel who have proper certification can help with childbirth.
"There are many women who have high-risk pregnancies, such as those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and other morbid diseases.
"Sometimes they have placenta preview or the baby is in a breeched position.
"Trained midwives and nurses will know this and refer to hospitals if these conditions are present," he said.
He added that there are some doulas who encourage home births without knowing the actual medical history of the expectant mothers.
"There are some doulas who link home birthing with religion and they influence these mothers to do so," said Dr Hilmi in reply to Shamsul Iskandar (PKR-Bukit Katil) who asked what measures and legal action could be taken by the Ministry to curb doula activities.
Dr Hilmi said a doula, which in Greek means "female slave", is supposed to assist expectant mothers by giving them advice but cannot assist in childbirth.
He said since 2014, less than 0.5% of unsafe births were due to doula activities.
However, he said there had been an increase in unsafe births due to doula activities, with two cases reported in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
"This number increased to six in 2016 and seven in 2017 and there were three cases of newborn deaths reported – one case each in 2016, 2017 and January 2018," he added.
Dr Hilmi, however, said the percentage of unsafe births had decreased from 7.1% in 1990 to 1.3% or 6,020 births in 2012 and dropped further to 0.42% or 1,949 births in 2016.