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Delawareans gain more access to doulas as state works to increase positive birth outcomes

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

More pregnant people in the First State will now have access to doulas.

HB 80, signed into law last week, requires their services be covered by Medicaid in Delaware by January 1st.

State Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown’s bill was created to help combat the high mortality rates faced by Black pregnant people on both a local and national level.

Morgan Harvey is a doula working in the First State. She says Medicaid coverage will allow more people to utilize a service that can greatly improve their experience- and help avoid adverse outcomes.

“I feel like this is a necessity in all birthing, period. And so I believe this is the beginning of the first step to try to work out some of the kinks that the state has, especially with our failing grade when it comes to Black maternal health and care,” said Harvey.

Black women made up only 28% of Delaware live births in 2019, yet they represent 78% of pregnancy-related fatalities between 2017-2021.

Local organizations are working to increase the number of culturally competent doulas to help combat these racial disparities.

That includes Black Mothers In Power, who recruits 10 individuals each year to receive doula training and certification through their Community-Based Doula Training Program.

The group’s founder Shané Darby says they want to help give pregnant people the option to work with a doula who looks like them, speaks their native language, and is from their community.

“If you look at the research nationwide, it shows that doulas have increased positive interactions for the family with the healthcare system. And that's a huge benefit,” explained Darby. “We have more people who are breastfeeding, less C-sections, less interventions with pregnancy. We have people who feel empowered when they're giving birth, and feeling empowered in the postpartum period.”

And with Medicaid reimbursement coming, Darby says the demand for doulas is expected to grow.

“People now don't have to worry about the cost. Now they just have to find a doula. And birth happens. There’s a lot of births,” said Darby. “So we need to make sure that we're building that pool up, so that we can pull from that.”

Black Mothers in Power is one of 3 doula training programs in the state, including Do Doula Care and the Parent Information Center.

Their second cohort of doulas graduated Friday, adding 10 more to the community.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.