KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Friday morning, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer launched the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies initiative, making Michigan one of the few states in the country to expand doula services to Medicaid recipients.

Vanessa Moon of the Rootead Enrichment Center in Kalamazoo said they’re glad to see the state acknowledge that doulas are essential.

“We know the support of doulas for birthing people can help decrease and eliminate disparities in health outcomes. And people who are Medicaid recipients unfortunately often bear the biggest burden in those areas,” Moon said during an interview with FOX 17 on Friday afternoon. “So, we’re really excited to see that at the state level. I read earlier that the medical director is offering that doulas be covered as a medical necessity.”

According to March of Dimes, in Michigan between 2018–2020, 66 percent of Medicaid recipients were Black, 59 percent were Hispanic, 56 were American Indian, 32 percent were white and 23 percent were Asian.

Whitmer said in a press release that Black women were three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and that 63 percent of maternal deaths are preventable.

“We know in Kalamazoo for instance that Black infants are three to four times more likely to die in their first year after birth than their white counterparts,” said Moon, Rootead’s director of birthing justice. “In our collective, in the last fiscal year, we served roughly 28 people and we saw that 99 percent of them were born at a healthy weight.”

And they were born at term and were breastfed immediately after birth, Moon said.

Doulas, she added, are birth workers who support people physically and emotionally during their prenatal period, labor and delivery, and postpartum period.

They also provide education, she said.

“Many people who’ve never had children or haven’t been around babies, they don’t know what kind of planning can go into reaching your goals in labor and delivery or setting ourselves up for success in the postpartum period,” said Moon, who’s been a doula and now works as a nurse. “Postpartum Mood Disorders, there’s been an ongoing discussion about that where doulas actually impact people’s risk by lowering their risk for postpartum moods disorders like depression, anxiety, [and] OCD.”

In the press release, the state’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian applauded the initiative, saying that “doulas are medically necessary for all pregnant or postpartum Medicaid recipients.” She recommended that the services be offered immediately and on an ongoing basis.

Moon agreed.

“Every birthing person who wants a doula deserves a doula,” Moon said. “And we can provide that for people here in Kalamazoo.”

***For more info on Rootead’s birthing justice and services, click here. ***

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This content was originally published here.

Michael Bourdon

Michael Bourdon


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