Doulas are professionals who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Doula’s act as a facilitator between the laboring women and her physician by ensuring that mom and dad get the information they need in a way that they understand so they can make informed decisions.

A growing body of evidence suggests that continuous support from doulas or other non-clinical labor support can improve birth outcomes for both mothers and infants, fewer preterm and low-birth weight infants, and reductions in cesarean sections. In fact, when doula services are included throughout the pregnancy and birth process, births cost less. A recent study found that when a doula is included in the process births cost an average of $986 less – including the doula service fee.

SB 1181 would go a long way toward building doula’s into the public health and healthcare workforce by providing a way for doula’s to get a ‘certificate to practice’ from the ADHS as a state-certified doula. A person providing doula services wouldn’t be required to get a certificate in order to practice. However it would provide baseline professional standards and ultimately provide a pathway for reimbursing doula’s for their services – which would build the doula workforce.

Currently, Minnesota and Oregon take advantage of the fact that doulas can reduce healthcare costs while improving outcomes in their state Medicaid programs. Oregon Medicaid program provides direct payments to doulas through their contracted managed care organizations as does Minnesota. Last year, Minnesota increased the reimbursement rates for doulas after recognizing the role they play in improving outcomes and reducing overall costs. 

Several organizations, such as DONA International, provide doula training and certification. Women can also choose to become certified as community-based doulas through HealthConnect One. This community-based doula program model, which has been replicated nationwide to serve unique populations, trains doulas to provide culturally sensitive pregnancy and childbirth education to underserved women in their own community.

While all doula services can be beneficial, creating a standard for the training and certification of doulas may improve understanding and acceptance of doula care.

Fortunately, SB 1181 is receiving bipartisan support this year and it looks like it may be going to a final floor vote in the House this week. We certainly hope so!

Looking for more info? Access this UA Issue Brief on Doula Coverage to Help Minimize Arizona’s Birth Woes.