Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s (NFMMC) Every Woman and Child Counts program is set to launch training in December for a group of community members chosen to become doulas to promote perinatal health equity in Niagara County.
The training will be led by Nikia Lawson, the current President of DONA International.
Six doulas (four funded through the Blue Fund and two through a contract with Amerigroup) will be hired by NFMMC to begin providing non-medical prenatal, birthing, and postpartum support to birthing people in Niagara County. Participants will be eligible based on screening for social determinants of health (SDOH): the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. Through the contract with Amerigroup, additional birthing people with Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Medicaid product will be eligible to receive doula support.
Studies have shown that women with poor social determinants of health see the effects escalated during important life-cycle events such as pregnancy and childbirth, playing a crucial role in maternal and infant health outcomes. Access to doula services for vulnerable birthing people at risk for poor birth outcomes may disrupt the influence of negative SDOH factors.
A study published by The Journal of Perinatal Education documented that “doula-assisted mothers were four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding” (Gruber, Kenneth, Ph.D., et al. (2013). Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes. The Journal of Perinatal Education).
In recognition of the potential impact of the new community-based doula project, Ms. Lawson has offered the in-kind training of an additional 14 community members. The training is the first step in becoming a birth doula. After the December sessions, the additional trainees will have the option of gaining hands-on experience and pursuing doula certification on their own. Based on the demonstrated success of the recent NYS Medicaid Doula Pilot Project in Erie County, with 97% of respondents indicating that having a doula improved or somewhat improved their childbirth experience, this opportunity will likely fortify access to doulas in Niagara County.
A limited number of slots remain for interested community members to complete doula training. Please contact Eileen Kineke at (716) 278-4274 to learn more.