SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego County supervisors voted 4-0 Tuesday to create a one-year pilot doula program as a way to support underserved parents and improve maternal health, including birth rates.
Trained to provide guidance and support during labor and birth, doulas "can significantly improve health outcomes," according to the office of Nathan Fletcher, chairman of the County Board of Supervisors.
"For Black, Indigenous and people of color there is a lack of access to doulas due to cost, inadequate health care, and an absence of providers from these populations," Fletcher said. "This new pilot program will generate better outcomes by providing doulas to assist in pregnancy, labor and delivery, and by training the next generation of doulas to serve their communities."
According to the county, doulas can also help to:
- decrease the number of cesarean sections,
- lower the rate of epidural and pain medication use,
- increase healthy birth outcomes and breastfeeding rates; and
- decrease postpartum depression rates.
The county will spend $400,000 on the program, via contracts with local organizations and doulas to serve more individuals at no cost to them, train more doulas and promote better health outcomes.
Nora Vargas, board vice chairwoman, said women of color have higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths, and the doula program will help the county address such health disparities.
Her colleague Jim Desmond said healthy moms and babies are the ultimate goal, and "this is a good step towards getting pregnant women the education they need."
The term doula is derived from the modern Greek language. The doula practice was part of a natural birth movement that started in the United States during the 1960s.
Supervisor Joel Anderson was ill and didn't participate in Tuesday's meeting, held via teleconference.
Residents called in to praise the pilot program. Crystal Irving, president of the local Service Employees International Union chapter, said the supervisors' approval shows the board is "listening to our concerns."
Two callers took issue with board documents using the term "birthing persons" instead of women.
Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who has described herself as non- binary, said the board letter notes the county region's diversity.
"It's important the language we use not be discriminatory," Lawson- Remer said.
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