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Doulas share benefits of prenatal and postpartum care as legislation calls for growing doula services

Image of pregnant woman touching her belly with hands
Posted at 12:27 PM, Nov 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-30 09:46:34-05

The CARE for Moms Act focuses on support and resources to moms before and after they give birth. The legislation is in the beginning stages, but part of it calls for growing doula services. That’s something Natasha Jewell has firsthand experience with.

Jewell started working as a doula for Kim Whitfield when Kim was seven months pregnant with her youngest. At first, she provided one-on-one care physically and emotionally to the mom of four as she prepared for her baby's birth.

“A lot of times what happens with clients is after they have the babies, that's the end and that's it. But that's not where their support ends. You know, they continue to need support,” Jewell said.

Now Whitfield’s baby is about a year old. Her oldest is five. Jewell is still supporting her, but now as a postpartum doula. Whether it's phone calls or trips to the park where they can sit and chat while the kids play, she's there to give this busy mom mental health support.

“I'd say two weeks, three weeks after I had my baby, I had a real just difficult time with sleeping like I was very tired. I had a breakdown, and I needed some help. I needed to get out of the house. I needed to vent. I needed to talk to somebody who would not judge me and understand my situation,” Whitfield said.

Some lawmakers realize resources like doulas are needed. The CARE for Moms Act calls for boosting the doula workforce with the goal of recruiting and retaining students from underserved communities that have seen high rates of maternal deaths.

“Postpartum Support International has seen a steady rate of certifications for doulas, both birth and postpartum,” said Elizabeth Lilley, Program Manager for Postpartum Support International's Legal Justice Program.

“So, with the research that's out now, it is primarily geared on the birth doula side. But because the effects have been so overwhelmingly positive, we are hopeful that we will start seeing more research on the postpartum end as well, because we know families need that support to extend through the postpartum period.”

Postpartum Support International points out more states are offering Medicaid reimbursement for doulas since the cost itself can be pricey.

Verywell Family, a resource for pregnancy and parenting topics, reports on average a birth doula costs between $800 and $2,500 and a postpartum doula between $20 and $50 per hour.

“We still have work to be done. We know that families need support into the postpartum period. So, the benefit needs to be extended to postpartum doulas as well. And we need to remember that these reimbursements also need to be a living wage for the doulas,” Lilley said.

“It's not just a doula, it's a friendship, it's a relationship. It's a bond,” said Whitfield.

“It's just extra support and when they say it takes a village, it takes a village.”

There are other ways parents can get the help they need.

Postpartum Support International offers several online support groups and they're all free.

Click here to access them.

You can also call or text in English and Spanish.

The PSI Helpline is 1-800-944-4773. Press #1 for Spanish #2 for English.

You can also text ‘Help’ to 800-944-4773 or for Spanish speakers, text 971-203-7773.