Recently, UnitedHealthcare took part in the No One Births Alone Conference in Orlando, Florida. The conference, organized by The Doula Network, served as a day of retreat, respite and education for doulas, decision-makers and health plan partners who create the foundational system of doula services.
The vital role of birth doulas
Birth doulas give physical and emotional support to pregnant individuals and share resources and information about labor and birth. A Cochrane Review, titled Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. With their support, women were less likely to have pain-relief medications administered and less likely to have a cesarean birth. Women also reported having a more positive childbirth experience.1
The Doula Network believes every pregnant individual deserves community-based, culturally appropriate birthing support, particularly people in communities at risk of poor outcomes. One of the network’s primary goals is to increase access to insurance-covered doula services and to make using these services a standard option for pregnant individuals.
This mission aligns with that of Healthy First Steps, which provides comprehensive care management to address medical, behavioral and social needs for high-risk pregnant individuals who may need extra support and services.
Four key conference takeaways
- Nationally, it’s become more common for doulas to be part of a pregnant individual’s care team within the hospital setting. Expansion of doula care has the potential to reduce disparities in clinical outcomes and improve care experiences.2
- Doulas in attendance expressed a strong passion for their profession and the individuals they serve. The profession is at the grassroots level of organizing and advocating for improved equity in maternal health outcomes. At the same time, the work is demanding and unpredictable. A birth could take two hours or two days, so it requires a good support system and a self-care plan.
- UnitedHealthcare supports doula services and encourages doulas to partner with plan and community agencies to educate community members and health care systems on the value of doula services.
- The Doula Network serves as an important resource for doulas, who are typically self-employed, to network, collaborate and make financial plans.
Culturally attuned community care for all pregnant individuals
The work of doulas – and their passion for it – is transformational. At the conference, we had the opportunity to meet our first doula-referred member, who was so inspired by her positive experience that she chose to become a doula. She is now part of The Doula Network. It was wonderful to see the connection and strength among people who have answered the call to improve the birthing experience.