The United States is experiencing a maternal health crisis. Too many women are dying from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth and being impacted by severe maternal morbidity which can have life-long effects on a mom’s health. That’s why March of Dimes and CVS Health Foundation have teamed up to launch an initiative to help change this. Together, we will elevate the role of doulas in maternity care. Our goal is to increase awareness of and access to doula services for people during their pregnancy journey, while growing and supporting the doula workforce. Through this five-year collaboration we aim to shift the current health care infrastructure to one where all moms and babies have an opportunity to thrive and close health equity gaps.
What does a doula do?
A doula (pronounced doo-luh) is a trained non-medical professional who provides emotional and physical support to women and their partners during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. In addition to providing support during labor, a doula can assist with feeding and baby care after birth.
Some doulas provide specialized support. For example, they may serve families who have a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), or those who have a baby who has been diagnosed with a birth defect. Others specialize in providing support to families who have experienced a pregnancy loss or who have experienced newborn loss in the past.
Are there benefits to having a doula?
Research has shown that having a doula can lead to a shorter labor, reduce the use of pain medication, such as an epidural, during birth, and improve overall maternal satisfaction with the birth experience. They can assist with comfort, explain procedures, boost confidence, and communicate with hospital staff. Pregnant women who have a doula during pregnancy and at the time of their labor are also less likely to need a medical intervention, including having a Cesarean birth (C-section).
Doulas can improve the care a person receives after childbirth as well. Studies have shown that having a doula increases the likelihood that a mom will breastfeed her baby and reduces the likelihood of a woman having postpartum depression.
How do I hire a doula to help support me?
Doulas practice independently, but may be part of a doula collective or agency. You can contact a doula directly, or look through the directory of a doula collective or agency to find a doula that you’d like to work with.
The cost of a doula varies from state to state. Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t always cover doula services and fees, so you may need to pay out of pocket. The good news is that many doulas offer sliding scale fees based on your income or what you can afford. Some may even offer payment plans. It's important to discuss this upfront before hiring a doula. If you are insured by Medicaid, doula services may be covered but it depends on the state you live in. According to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families, so far 17 states are in the process of either considering, planning, or implementing doula coverage for pregnant women who are insured by Medicaid. Before hiring a doula, it’s important you speak with your insurance provider to understand what your options are.
Learn more about doulas by visiting:
DONA International: https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/find-a-doula/
Doula Match: https://doulamatch.net/
Black Doulas.org: https://www.blackdoulas.org/national-directory
Black Doulas Directory: https://www.blackdouladirectory.com/