How doulas can help expectant mothers in New York

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Park Slope, Brooklyn, mom Justine Simonson is grateful she had a doula by her side during her pregnancy, in the delivery room and postpartum. Her daughter Katja is now 7 weeks old.

"I just felt like it would give me an extra peace of mind to stay calm and have an advocate if things went other than the way I had anticipated," Simonson said.

A doula is a nonmedical birth coach who provides physical, emotional and informational support to an expectant mother and her family before, during and after childbirth. These services can cost anywhere from $500 to $3,500.

Grace Veras Sealy has been a doula for 16 years. She explained that a doula, unlike a midwife, doesn't deliver the baby.

"We are kind of like your best friend who knows everything about birth and who's there with you every step of the way," Versa Sealy said. "Just helping making decisions. Should I get IV fluids or should I switch positions?"

New York State is about to launch a pilot program in March in Brooklyn that would cover doula services for low-income pregnant women in the borough who have Medicaid. Brooklyn has one of the state's highest number of maternal and infant mortality rates.

City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal also wrote up similar legislation that the City Council passed in October. The city now has until July to create a plan that would increase awareness of doulas for all low-income women throughout the city.

"In New York City, black women are eight times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth compared to white women," Rosenthal said.

The state program is slated to start in Brooklyn on March 1.

Click here for information on how to enroll as a doula or as an expectant mom.