When New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a new initiative to provide free doula services to pregnant women, many providers viewed it as a landmark opportunity to improve birth outcomes in the city’s most vulnerable communities.
The Citywide Doula Initiative will provide free access to doulas for 500 birthing families by the end of June, focusing on 33 neighborhoods determined to have the greatest need.
“The connection to community doulas will be vital. This program will do a lot of good,” said doula Myla Flores, co-founder of Uptown Village Cooperative, which offers birth, postpartum, and lactation support to women in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx.
Doulas serve as birth coaches, providing physical and emotional support during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as postpartum support.
“I think that it will definitely make a difference in Harlem, bringing doula access to the community,” said Miranda Padilla, co-founder of The Mothership, a Harlem-based provider of doula and birthing support services. “A lot of clients we’re getting haven’t used a doula before or didn’t think they could afford a doula.”
In New York City, Black women are eight times more likely than white women to die from a pregnancy-related cause and nearly three times more likely to experience severe birth-related health consequences than white women, according to data from the NYC Health Department.