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New county program aims to provide doulas to underserved expecting women

Sharavyn (left) lays as her wife, Nasira, holds their son Asir moments after he was born, July 10, 2019.
Courtesy Sharavyn
Sharavyn (left) lays as her wife, Nasira, holds their son Asir moments after he was born, July 10, 2019.

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.

Limited research shows a doula, a Greek term for women's servant, can reduce the risk of complications and low birth weights and increase the likelihood of breastfeeding, but hiring one is pricey and not typically covered by insurance.

Nathan Fletcher, chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors introduced the program because of the role doulas can play in improving health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies.


Fletcher joined KPBS Midday Edition Wednesday to talk about the program.

"We have a lot of evidence, and data suggests that this is a really important component for women who want to choose this to be a part of if it is available, to really facilitate not only a healthy pregnancy but a healthy birth and a healthy start to life," he said.

Doulas are trained to provide guidance and support during labor and birth.

"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."

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.


Fletcher said county staff will work with community partners to come up with the parameters of the program. The county is still working on developing what the pilot program will look like.