Norton Women’s Doula Program works to improve health outcomes for Black mothers

Norton Women’s Doula Program is available for no cost to eligible patients who live in the California, Portland or Russell neighborhoods in Louisville

Norton Women’s Doula Program currently has three doulas who are actively working with patients, with plans for additional doulas to join the expanding program soon.

“Our doula program is the first of its kind in the region,” said Cara L. Bland, regional practice manager, Norton Medical Group. “While doulas are welcome in many birthing hospitals, this is the first program in Kentucky that employs doulas as part of the care team.”

Which patients are eligible for the doula program?

The Norton Women’s Doula Program is available for no cost to patients with certain health conditions who live in the California, Portland or Russell neighborhoods in Louisville. Qualifying conditions include late prenatal care, gestational hypertension, hypertension, gestational diabetes, diabetes, preeclampsia or HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets) syndrome.

Patients will receive additional prenatal care through Norton OB/GYN Associates and Norton Women’s Specialists downtown practices, with babies delivered at Norton Hospital. The program includes several home visits throughout the patient’s pregnancy and the period after delivery.

Providers at Norton Women’s Specialists and Norton OB/GYN Associates can refer patients to the community-based doula program.

Doulas aim to improve outcomes for Black mothers

According to a 2021 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black patients are 2 1/2  times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white patients. People of color are disproportionally at risk for high blood pressure and diabetes, which can lead to issues with pregnancy and childbirth, including swelling of the heart and blood clots.

“Patients from Black communities can experience barriers to accessing and receiving quality care,” said Lecresha Y. Sewell, APRN, a nurse practitioner with Norton Women’s Care who helped design the doula program. “Our doula program aims to address these health and racial inequities by offering additional support to Louisville patients who, statistically, are at risk for poor maternal outcomes.”

Why is it important to have a doula?

Doulas are trained, nonmedical professionals who provide physical, emotional and informational support to a pregnant patient through all stages of childbirth in hopes of producing positive health outcomes.

Refer a patient

To refer a patient to the Norton Women’s Doula Program, visit Norton EpicLink and choose EpicLink referral to Doula Services.

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Using a doula has been shown to have many benefits for the patient, their labor and their postpartum experience. Doula-assisted pregnancies have been shown to be four times less likely to have a low birth weight baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving the mother or baby and are significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding.

Additionally, patients who had support from a doula during labor were less likely to use pain medications, require Pitocin or have cesarean deliveries than patients who didn’t use a doula. The patients were more likely to experience shorter labor and have a vaginal birth without instruments. Patients who received support from a doula were more likely to be satisfied overall with their birth experience.

A statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine affirms that labor support from someone like a doula can help improve labor and delivery.

Additional resources for patients

If patients do not meet the criteria for the program, doulas still can connect patients with local resources to assist with access to healthy food, transportation to and from provider visits, housing, and support for legal issues.

Norton Women’s Doula Program is supported by the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.

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