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Study: Doulas Can Improve Birth Outcomes For Low Income Women

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A new University of Minnesota study says low income women who get support from a doula during the pregnancy end up with fewer dangerous and costly birth complications.

Doulas are trained professionals who provide support before, during and after a birth.

The study found women who had doula care lowered their odds of a preterm birth by 22 percent. It also lowered their chance of having a cesarean birth by 56 percent.

Everyday Miracles in Minneapolis provides all kinds of support for low-income mothers-to-be. There's chiropractic care, an exercise center, a lending library and doulas.

Martha Auqualla's daughter Samantha was born with the help of a doula, and a doula is helping her through her current pregnancy too.

"They help me a lot," she said. "She tells me how you eat when you're pregnant, because you need to eat healthy."

The doula also helped her with breast feeding. She said,

"She teaches me a lot of positions," Auqualla said.

The women cited in the study were all clients of Everyday Miracles. The study says by cutting down on premature births and cesarean sections for low income women, doulas are saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Liz Abbene has been a doula for nine years.

"There have been doula studies happening all over the world for a number of years, and every single one shows these benefits," she said.

In 2013 the Minnesota legislature passed a law requiring Medicaid to pay for doulas for low income patients. But Doulas here say the current Medicaid reimbursement of $411 for six visits and a birth is way too low for many of them to take low income clients. Most doulas are normally paid at least double that figure.

State Senator Sandy Pappas says she plans to work this upcoming legislative session on upping the current reimbursement. Sen. Pappas says the savings to taxpayers from limiting C-sections and premature births makes that worth it.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services says Medicaid rules bar direct reimbursement to unlicensed professionals, including doulas. The doula would need to be affiliated with a health care professional like a doctor to get reimbursed.

That proposal was floated at the legislature last year and did not go anywhere, but could come up again this legislative session as well.


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