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Last April, during Black Maternal Health Week hosted by Black Mammas Alliance, a bunch of folks - policymakers, advocates, and community members - got together to talk about what can be done to address the maternal health crisis affecting Black and Brown birthing people in the US. With the pandemic, things have only gotten worse, and the most recent CDC data shows an increase in maternal mortality rates overall. Unfortunately, Black and Brown birthing people are up to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications and experience higher rates of severe maternal morbidity than white folks. They're also more likely to be mistreated by healthcare providers during childbirth.
During the event, doula services were brought up as a potential solution to the crisis. Doula services have been shown to be particularly helpful for Black and Brown mothers because they can address the racial disparities in care that exist within the healthcare system. Doulas can provide culturally congruent, tailored care that is sensitive to the unique needs and experiences of birthing people of color. They can also provide education and advocacy, helping mothers to understand their options and navigate the often-complex healthcare system. Studies have also shown that doula care can lead to better birth outcomes for people of color, including lower rates of Cesarean sections, shorter labor times, and reduced use of pain medication.
While it's not a cure-all, doula care can directly help Medicaid programs and beneficiaries.
While it's not a cure-all, doula care can directly help Medicaid programs and beneficiaries. It's been shown to lower Medicaid costs and improve birth outcomes for people of color in underserved communities. But what's really important is that doula services can help address the current racial disparities in care by providing ongoing support that's tailored to the person's culture and needs.
Currently, at least 17 states are in various stages of consideration, planning, or implementation of Medicaid doula reimbursements. According to NHeLP’s Doula Medicaid Project and recent blog, and CCF analysis: