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New York just made it easier for moms to access doula services and doctors appointments. Here's how.

New York just made it easier for moms to access doula services and doctors appointments
New York just made it easier for moms to access doula services and doctors appointments 02:01

NEW YORK -- New York is making it easier for expecting, birthing and postpartum mothers to access doulas and doctors appointments.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced three steps toward improving prenatal and postpartum maternal health Monday, including the expansion of doula services across the state. Hochul signed an order allowing Medicaid to cover doula services, effective immediately.

Doulas provide non-medical support, like attending doctors appointments, offering guidance and emotional support, and helping both during labor and after delivery to make the experience smoother and safer. Services can range from $1,000 to $2,500 out-of-pocket.

"Doula services improve birth outcomes and provide families with emotional support during pregnancy, delivery, and following birth," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said in a statement Monday. "The number of Black people who die while giving birth is indicative of long-standing health disparities resulting from systemic racism, and this is unacceptable. The State Health Department remains committed to addressing disparities in birth outcomes, eliminating barriers to accessing important health resources, and providing quality resources and support, like doula services, so all people who give birth have pregnancies and deliveries that are safe and empowering."  

New York becomes 1st state to offer paid prenatal time off

The governor signed another order making New York the first state to give mothers 20 hours of paid time off for prenatal care, so they don't have to choose between work and doctors appointments. The policy takes effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Hochul also announced $8 million toward building a maternal health center at Morris Heights Health Center in the Bronx.

"I cannot tell you what the difference is, the stories we heard -- a 30-year-old woman being treated last Friday, had a baby, went home. On Monday, she's not feeling well, she's feeling the sick. The doctor says, 'I'll see you at the next visit in a few days.' She calls her doula, who says, 'I'm coming over, that doesn't sound right.' That night, she was admitted to the ICU and spent a week there, and they saved her life, she ended up having congestive heart failure. That's what I'm talking about, that level of care," said Hochul.

Advocates say they are also creating a directory to help match expecting mothers with doulas.

"We are on call for you. A nurse is not going to be with you continuously the entire time while you're in the hospital or a midwife or an OB. Your doula is there every single step of the way," said Nicole Jean Baptiste, executive director of Bronx Rebirth.

The hope is these services will improve longstanding health disparities, specifically for Black women who face a higher maternal mortality rate compared to other racial groups.

The health department maintains a directory of doulas, and the state has also granted $250,000 to community-based organizations to recruit, train and support them. 

Bronx lawmaker shares personal experiences

Due any day now, Deputy Bronx Borough President Janet Peguero spoke out at a round table at Bronx Borough Hall about her very personal labor and delivery concerns.

"When I found out I was pregnant, I was filled with joy, but I was also filled with fear, because I am aware of the data," Peguero said. "Regardless of educational and economic status, it boils down to race. Black and brown women are more likely to die from childbirth than our white counterparts."

"Women that look like us have died during childbirth because of pregnancy complications," Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson added.

Peguero said she and her doulas are ready and eagerly awaiting the big day.

"We're nine months, 36 weeks, in a couple of days, but who's counting? I am!" she said.

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