Dear House Finance Committee,
My name is Tammy Brown. I am on the board of directors of The Womxn Project. The Womxn Project, a statewide organization working to center the people most impacted by injustice and to leverage the collective strength of the community to eliminate systems of oppressions. As we prepare for a hearing to talk about Black maternal health, we must acknowledge the trauma of Black parents who have to raise children in a world of rampant police violence and systemic racism. I want to name Daunte Wright and send love to his mother and his family. Together, we can work for a better and more just world for all of your children and families. Supporting the health and well-being of Black mamas seems like an important place to star. I am reaching out to express support for H5929 and Article 12 Section 7d, which provides reimbursement for prenatal Doula services.
Women of color are more likely to struggle with maternal health issues and face a much higher rate of death as a result of pregnancy and child birth. Racial disparities exist even when socioeconomic status is accounted for. The fact is that systemic oppression pushes out of reach the services and care that we need. We have the chance to do something about it with this important legislation. Doulas do community based training to provide non-clinical emotional, physical, and informational support before, during, and after labor and birth. They help make sure pregnancy related care is safe, healthy, and equitable. Doulas can be particularly helpful for women of color and women from low-income and underserved communities to reduce health disparities by ensuring that pregnant people who face the greatest risks or who have historically faced systemic and cultural barriers in the traditional medical systems have the added support they need.
Extensive, reliable research shows that doula care improves childbirth outcomes, increases care quality. A recent review looking at data from 26 different studies found numerous benefits to continuous labor support and no known harms of such care, including:
- 39% reduction in the likelihood of cesarean births, which are more expensive, more complicated and have a longer and more difficult healing process with the potential for complications;
- 15% greater likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth, which is not always an option for everyone, but has significant benefits, including the baby receiving beneficial bacteria, fluid being squeezed out of the baby’s lungs, shorter recovery time, and less likelihood of future complications in pregnancy;
- 10% reduction in the use of pain medications;
- Shorter labor by an average of 41 minutes;
- Increase the initiation and duration of nursing by allowing parents to start earlier; and
- 31% reduction in reporting a negative birth experience simply by having support from an informed birth worker who can help a birthing parent navigate this experience.
Doula support also reduces rates of prematurity and illness in newborns, and the likelihood of postpartum depression, which when treated appropriately will raise costs and create additional struggles for families. This care can reduce overall spending by avoiding unnecessary medical procedures and the potential complications and chronic conditions that may result, including reducing NICU admissions.
Despite the numerous, well-documented benefits of doula care, the services remain widely underutilized. A number of barriers contribute to poor access, but cost is most significant obstacle to obtaining doula services. Medicaid coverage would eliminate this barrier making doula support accessible to those who need it most. We urge you to support H5929. Affordable access to birth workers has been shown to improve health outcomes and help women and families. We owe it to the families who have lost loved ones to do all we can to address the issue of maternal mortality and create effective strategies to deal with this critical public health issue. Thank you.