Doulas provide non-medical support to pregnant people and their families before, during and after childbirth. This support can help families handle the physical, emotional and practical issues that surround childbirth.
Studies have found doula support leads to better labor and birthing experiences, as well as better birth outcomes. People giving birth with support from a doula are less likely to:
They are also more likely to:
Doula support is a promising way to reduce racial inequities in birth outcomes. Currently, babies born to Black and Puerto Rican mothers in NYC are three times more likely to die in their first year of life than babies born to non-Hispanic White mothers. Further, non-Hispanic Black women are eight times more likely than non-Hispanic White women to die from pregnancy-related causes.
Research shows that families in a community-based doula program are less likely to have a preterm or low-birthweight baby, which means they have a lower risk of infant mortality.
These doulas meet with you before and after childbirth to help prepare you for birth, breastfeeding and parenting.
During labor and birth, birth doulas can help you stay comfortable by providing comforting touch and guidance on breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. Immediately after birth, they can show you how to maintain skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed your baby.
Birth doulas can also help you with hospital policies and encourage respectful communication between families and hospital staff.
These doulas begin their work with families in the first few days after childbirth. They can provide evidence-based information on physical recovery from birth, emotional well-being, infant feeding and parent-infant bonding. They can also help with cooking and other household duties. This support gives you the time you need to rest and focus on your baby.
A postpartum doula can also help you understand what you can expect from your baby and provide infant-soothing and coping skills.
You can get free or low-cost support by using a community-based doula. These doulas are trained to focus on the needs of specific communities that historically have had worse birth outcomes. They often share the same background, culture and language as their clients.
Community-based doula programs conduct home visits and offer a wider array of services and referrals for people who need more support. The relationship that develops during home visits can be particularly helpful for clients looking to expand their social support network.
These doulas are trained to address all the needs of their clients, including referrals to food pantries, housing programs and sources for free diapers.
Most people pay out of pocket for doula services. Some insurance companies cover at least part of doula costs. To find out if your insurance covers doula support, speak with your insurance provider.
If you have a pre-tax account, such as a Healthcare Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account, you may be able to use it to pay for doula support.
Several doula programs in NYC also provide free or low-cost services.
Many doulas practice independently, but some are also part of a doula organization. These groups may offer services at various prices, based on the amount of experience the doula has or the client’s income. Some organizations also provide free services, funded by government programs, grants or donations.
Citywide Doula Initiative
The Citywide Doula Initiative provides professional, no-cost doula services to residents of neighborhoods that have been especially affected by COVID-19.
To enroll, you must meet BOTH of the following two requirements:
In addition, the program prioritizes people who:
The below programs provide services as part of the Citywide Doula Initiative. Each program is available only to people who live in the listed ZIP codes.
Additional Programs Offering No-Cost Doulas
The following two programs also offer paid services on a sliding scale:
Additional Doula Organizations in NYC
The following organizations have provided information about their services to the Health Department. For more details, see Appendix D of The State of Doula Care in NYC 2021 (PDF). Note, this is not a complete list of organizations providing doula services in NYC.
If you are interested in becoming a doula, there are several local programs that offer training and apprenticeships. For more information, contact the below organizations directly. Many national organizations also offer doula training.
Programs Offering Doula Training
Citywide Doula Initiative Apprenticeship Program
The Citywide Doula Initiative's Apprenticeship Program aims to increase the number of community-based doulas who can support clients who are experiencing stress from social, racial and economic inequities. This program helps newly trained doulas become certified and build skills in case management, resource referral and traditional doula care.
For more information about this program, contact the organizations listed under the Citywide Doula Initiative tab above.
The NYC Department of Health produces an annual report describing the state of doula care in the city. The report reviews challenges for patients in getting doula support and outlines the Health Department's plan for expanding access.