Birth Advocacy

Mamas on Bedrest: “Widespread Insurance Coverage of Doula Care Would Reduce Costs, Improve Maternal and Infant Health”

January 14th, 2016

Hello Mamas,

As we roll into 2016 one thing is certain: We are on the brink of change in the maternity world! At no time in history have there been so many groups and so many initiatives determined to improve maternity care and birth outcomes. Below is a press release put out by two leading maternity advocacy groups, Choices in Childbirth and Childbirth Connection (a program of the National Partnership for Women and Families) to raise awareness not only of the cost benefit of doula care, but also the tremendous benefit doulas provide to mamas and infants in improving birth outcomes. A doula is “a trained birth attendant who provides non-medical emotional, physical and informational support before, during and after childbirth.” Here is more from the press release: 

“Widespread coverage of doula care is overdue,” said Michele Giordano, executive director of Choices in Childbirth. “Overwhelming evidence shows that giving women access to doula care improves their health, their infants’ health, and their satisfaction with and experience of care. Women of color and low-income women stand to benefit even more from access to doula care because they are at increased risk for poor maternal and infant outcomes. Now is the time to take concrete steps to ensure that all women can experience the benefits of doula care.”

 “Doula care is exactly the kind of value-based, patient-centered care we need to support as we transform our health care system into one that delivers better care and better outcomes at lower cost,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership. “By expanding coverage for doula care, decision-makers at all levels and across sectors – federal and state, public and private – have an opportunity to improve maternal and infant health while reducing health care costs.”

 The brief provides key recommendations to expand insurance coverage for doula care across the country. They have also provided an informative infographic which also summarized the major points (see below).

  • Congress should designate birth doula services as a mandated Medicaid benefit for pregnant women based on evidence that doula support is a cost-effective strategy to improve birth outcomes for women and babies and reduce health disparities, with no known harms.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) should develop a clear, standardized pathway for establishing reimbursement for doula services, including prenatal and postpartum visits and continuous labor support, in all state Medicaid agencies and Medicaid managed care plans. CMS should provide guidance and technical assistance to states to facilitate this coverage.
  • State Medicaid agencies should take advantage of the recent revision of the Preventive Services Rule, 42 CFR §440.130(c), to amend their state plans to cover doula support. States should also include access to doula support in new and existing Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) waiver programs.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force should determine whether continuous labor support by a trained doula falls within the scope of its work and, if so, should determine whether labor support by a trained doula meets its criteria for recommended preventive services.
  • Managed care organizations and other private insurance plans as well as relevant innovative payment and delivery systems with options for enhanced benefits should include support by a trained doula as a covered service.
  • State legislatures should mandate private insurance coverage of doula services.

Read the entire Issue Brief Here. For more information, visit Choices in Childbirth or Childbirth Connection.

 

 

Final_Doula-Brief-Infographic-Image

Mamas on Bedrest: September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month!

September 8th, 2015
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Photo by Racha Tahani Lawler, Los Angeles, CA

Mamas,

Did you know that September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month?

Globally, The United States spends more on healthcare than any other country. Yet, it has worse birth outcomes than many other countries globally. Despite recent declines in infant mortality, the United States ranked 26th among the 29 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in 2010, behind most European countries as well as Japan, Korea, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand (1). The U.S. infant mortality rate of 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births was more than twice that for Japan and Finland (both 2.3), the countries with the lowest rates. Twenty-one of the 26 OECD countries studied had infant mortality rates below 5.0.

Overall in the United States, white infants die at a rate of 5-6/1000 births and Hispanic infants have a similar infant mortality rate. African American Infants die at a rate of approximately 11.4/1000 births. I’m here in Texas and our infant mortality rate for white and hispanic infants is 5.5/1000 births while it is 11.4/1000 for African American Infants. In Travis County (the Greater Austin Area where I live), African American Infants have an infant mortality rate of 11.5/1000 births, whereas white infants have an infant mortality rate of 3.7/1000 births and Hispanic infants 6/1000 births.(2) What is the cause of this disparity?

Researchers and public health officials have numerous speculations as to why the IMR for African American infants is so poor,

  • Delayed initiation of prenatal care among African American women
  • Lack of access to quality prenatal care
  • Lack of insurance
  • Poverty
  • Preterm labor/Prematurity
  • Low birth weight
  • Birth Defect
  • SIDS
  • Maternal health complications

However Dr. Michael Lu, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences and the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities at UCLA School of Public Health has proposed other reasons for the birth outcome disparities. In his groundbreaking  research paper “Closing the Black-White Gap in Birth Outcomes: A Life-Course Approach (3) Dr Lu and his colleagues point to systemic racism in American culture as the underlying cause of the birth outcome disparities. Lu and his colleagues point out that racism passed down through generations, as well as repeated racial slights in the daily lives of African American women has created an allostatic load of stress on African American women that is affecting their overall health, but in particular, their reproductive health and causing the negative birth outcomes we see in African American women and infants. To address these social determinants of health, Lu and his colleagues propose a 12 point Life-Course approach to closing the racial gap in birth outcomes.

  1. Provide Inter-conception care for women with prior adverse pregnancy outcomes
  2. Increase access to preconception care for African American women
  3. Improve the quality of prenatal care for African American women
  4. Expand healthcare access over the life course for African American women
  5. Strengthen father involvement in African American families
  6. Enhance systems coordination and integration for family support services
  7. Create reproductive social capital in African American communities
  8. Invest in community building and urban renewal
  9. Close the education gap
  10. Reduce poverty among African American families
  11. Support working mothers and families
  12. Undo Racism

Lu and his colleagues have presented an approach that not only address issues surrounding pregnancy and childbearing, but also addresses the social issues affecting African American families and communities. Lu makes some very bold statements, ones that some people may be loathe to accept and even less likely to act upon. But as Lu says in his publication,

“We will not close the Black-White gap in birth outcomes without political will to do so. Political will is the ability to command resources to make things happen (i.e. implement the 12 points).”

As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way!” The question now becomes do we the American people have the will, the actual desire to close this gap?

 

References

MacDorman MF, Mathews TJ, Mohangoo AD, Zeitlin J. International comparisons of infant mortality and related factors: United States and Europe, 2010. National vital statistics reports; vol 63 no 5. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2014.

Austin Travis County Health and Human Services Department. Infant Mortality Rate Causes of Death for Travis County, 2000-2011. Data Source, Center for Health Statistics, Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 2011-2012

Lu, M.C., MD, MPH, Kotelchuck, M., PhD, MPH, Hogan, V., DrPH, Jones, L., MA, Wright, K., PhD, MPH, Halfon, N., MD, MPH. “Closing The Black-White Gap in Birth Outcomes: A Life-Course Approach” Ethnicity and Disease, Volume 20, Winter 2010.

Mamas on Bedrest:Unnecessary Medical Interventions in Labor and Delivery May be Putting Mothers, Babies at Risk

January 20th, 2015

Greetings Mamas!

I am happy to present to you a podcast interview with Carol Sakala, Director of Childbirth Connection Programs for the National Partnership for Women and Families. She has graciously stopped by today to share with us a landmark comprehensive report put out by Childbirth Connection and National Partnership for Women and Families called, The Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing and Its Implications for Women, Babies and Maternity Care. This report is unlike any other report on maternity care to date. Compiled by Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, the report is a review of over 1100 research papers and reports examining the best practices for maternity care and the best practices that protect and enhance the hormonal systems that are the most essential and influential in pregnancy and childbearing.

The report consists not only of the research and the evidence for each practice recommended, Childbirth Connection has also developed extensive patient and clinician resources that are available for free on the Childbirth Connection website. I am so grateful to Ms. Sakala for taking the time from her busy schedule, on a holiday, to explain the particulars of the report and to share some particular nuances that are beneficial to Mamas on Bedrest.

I apologize in advance for the recording. My microphone is more powerful than I thought picking up background noise from outside despite closed doors and windows. Deleting the noise caused some of the interview to be lost. So bear with the noise, in the beginning as the information is just too good to lose.