Henry Ford Health expands doula program

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DETROIT – Pregnancy can be an equally beautiful and stressful experience for mothers-to-be. While having another happy addition to a family is a beautiful thing, maternal death rates in the United States are higher than in any other developed nation, with the death rate for Black women being three times more than that of white women. Most of these deaths are largely preventable. Along with this emotional and mental states such as postpartum depression, which affects 20% of mothers can lead to adverse conditions for newborns. That’s where doulas come in.

Doulas are people who provide guidance, assistance, emotional support, and advocacy to people going through pregnancy before, during, and after visiting the delivery room in what many consider to be a necessary service when going through pregnancy, but one that can cost upwards of $5,000 and may not be covered by insurance.

At Henry Ford Health, access to the doula program is being expanded to pregnant women with Medicaid, providing access to this service to many in marginalized communities and helping combat maternal death rates.

To learn more about the doula program at Henry Ford and the benefits of taking advantage of that opportunity, Local 4′s Kimberly Gill was able to sit down with Henry Ford Health Dr. D’Angela Pitts and Sandra Pope, a doula, at the hospital.

“I think this program is important first to really tackle the health disparities, and we’re in a maternal health crisis,” said Dr. Pitts when describing the importance of the doula program, “80% of the maternal deaths are preventable. They are from high blood pressure, bleeding after delivery, and sepsis. And then for infant mortality, it is pre-term deliveries. So doulas can help with that, we know access to prenatal care can help with that and also public health.”

Doulas start assisting patients early in pregnancy, helping with ensuring the ideal delivery for the patient and giving advice for do’s and don’ts when taking care of infants.

“Along with the emotional support, there is educational support.” Pope stated, “As the doula, it’s my job to kind of lay things out for them so they get a nice broad view as to what options look like for them.”

“In that prenatal course, they can talk about how to actually breastfeed, how to help baby latch on, what to expect, do you want pain medicine, do you want candles lit, did you want aromatherapy.” Dr. Pitts said, elaborating on what doulas can provide in the prenatal phase, “Each little thing they can talk about and build trust, when they get to the delivery room they are your advocate.”

Studies show pregnant women who use doulas are less likely to require a c-section, and less likely to have babies with low birth weights.

Though they primarily provide support before and during labor, support from doulas doesn’t stop with the delivery room as postpartum support is also offered, allowing the doula to check in with postpartum visits and helping to take care of the baby if the mother needs help.

“My vision is that we actually start to move the needle,” Dr. Pitts said when asked about her vision for the Henry Ford doula program, “Once I show that it works at Henry Ford, I want to expand it. I want it to be in every healthcare system and that every healthcare system will be open to this.”

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