Doulas, trained non-medical professionals who provide emotional, physical, and educational support during prenatal through the post-partum period, are stepping in to fill the gaps the medical industry has left agape. Research published in The Journal of Perinatal Education in 2013 found that when people use doulas during their birthing journey, they are two times less likely to experience birth complications and four times less likely to have a low-birth-weight baby. To help expand access to doulas, Baby Dove launched the "Black Birth Equity Fund," which provides pregnant Black individuals with a one-time direct grant of $1,300 to cover the cost of doula services.
"At Baby Dove, we believe Black moms have the right to superior care at every step of their journey," says Sally Brown, global brand director at Baby Dove, in a press release. "But for too long, Black moms have not received the care they deserve, and the consequences are significant—we are committed to helping change that. Expanding access to doulas through the Black Birth Equity Fund is just the beginning, and in partnership with organizations like Black Mamas Matter Alliance, we will work towards systemic change that will improve the birthing journey for Black moms and their babies."
Though the costs of doula care vary greatly based on location, type of services used, and experience level of the doula, the $1,300 grant will, in most cases, cover at least half if not all of the expense says Angela D. Aina, MPH, the co-founding executive director at Black Mamas Matter Alliance and a Baby Dove strategic advisor. Many health insurers do not offer reimbursement for doula services. Oregon, Minnesota, and New Jersey are the only states where Medicaid is required to cover doula services. A pilot program for Medicaid to cover doula costs is underway in New York; and in Indiana, this coverage is provided through grants. Proposed legislation to mandate Medicaid coverage of doula services is underway in 17 states.
Having doula support throughout pregnancy increases positive birth outcomes overall, which is specifically important for Black women and Black birthing people, Aina tells Well+Good. "And this is possible because doulas in particular help fill the gap in terms of what clinical, hospital-based or facility-based, services may not be able to provide."
Now through December 31, expecting Black people can apply for funds from Baby Dove's "Black Birthing Equity Fund." Income level is not taken into account when choosing who receives the grants. Unfortunately, maternal morbidity and maternal mortality really significantly impact Black birthing people regardless of their socioeconomic status or education," says Aina. "Because of this, it didn't make sense to limit the grant to only low-income folks. The experience of racism and sexism that we experience in the healthcare system and ultimately, unfortunately, in society at large—these antiquated and stereotypical beliefs around Blackness—even seeps through into how we receive care, how we are believed, and the type of care that we need and deserve."
During these initial months of the fund, Baby Dove plans to give grants to more than 190 people, and the company will evaluate the potential expansion as it moves forward. Applicants will be selected and notified once per month at the end of each monthly period, starting at the end of September. Once notified of their selection, they’ll complete forms that verify their eligibility, and the money will be dispersed shortly thereafter through check or ACH payment. Applicants must be pregnant at the time of submission, but recipients can use resources retroactively if they worked with a doula to give birth before receiving funds.
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