State Health Commissioner Issues Statewide Standing Order for Doula Services

Standing Order Further Expands Access to Doula Care in New York State

Doulas Provide Physical, Emotional, Educational and Non-Medical Support for Pregnant and Postpartum People

As of March 1, 2024, New York State Medicaid Covers Doula Services

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 10, 2024) – The New York State Department of Health today announced that State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald has issued a statewide standing order that all New Yorkers who are pregnant, birthing, or postpartum would benefit from receiving doula services. This standing order – secured by Governor Kathy Hochul in the FY 2025 Enacted Budget – will allow more New Yorkers to access doula care because a recommendation for doula services is required in order to be eligible for Medicaid coverage. The standing order will also make it easier for birthing parents enrolled in other health plans to access doula care. Doulas provide physical, emotional, educational, and non-medical support for pregnant and postpartum individuals before, during, and after childbirth.

"Doula services improve birth outcomes and provide families with emotional support during pregnancy, delivery, and following birth," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The number of Black people who die while giving birth is indicative of long-standing health disparities resulting from systemic racism, and this is unacceptable. The State Health Department remains committed to addressing disparities in birth outcomes, eliminating barriers to accessing important health resources, and providing quality resources and support, like doula services, so all people who give birth have pregnancies and deliveries that are safe and empowering."

Despite continued efforts to reduce maternal mortality, especially among racial and ethnic minorities, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths is still far too high in New York State, especially among Black people who give birth. Governor Hochul announced last year legislation to direct the State Health Department to create and maintain a directory of doulas. As of March 1, 2024, New York State Medicaid covers doula services for pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people. To support access to services, the Department maintains a directory of doulas enrolled to provide covered services to Medicaid members. In addition, the Doula Expansion Grant Program will allow the Department to award $250,000 to community-based organizations for the recruitment, training, certification, support, and mentoring of community-based doulas.

Labor and delivery can present a high medical risk to pregnant persons and their newborn(s). Doula services will help to address the statewide crisis of racial and income-based maternal health disparities by providing culturally competent and comprehensive social, emotional, and physical support to clients during the prenatal, birthing, end of pregnancy, and postpartum periods.

Doulas provide many benefits to pregnant people and their families before, during, and after childbirth.

  • Doulas advocate for pregnant people and their families and help them share their needs, preferences, and concerns with their healthcare team.
  • Doulas provide education and support, which can help pregnant people feel more in control of their birthing experience.
  • Doulas help pregnant people find ways to ease the pain and stress of giving birth and may reduce the need for pain medication.
  • Doulas can help decrease the need for C-sections and other medical interventions.
  • Doulas support families after birth with help breastfeeding, getting access to postpartum care, and finding local resources.
  • Doula support can improve outcomes for the pregnant person and baby during pregnancy, birth, and after giving birth, and they are a vital part of a healthy birthing system.

The Department is committed to creating safer birth experiences for all New Yorkers and providing resources to people who give birth and their families.

In addition to this announcement, the Department sends its deepest condolences to the loved ones of the late Esther Patterson who recently passed. Ms. Patterson was a long-time birth doula who was dedicated to eliminating inequities in birth outcomes for all birthing people. As Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for BirthNet, she was an advocate for women, children, and health equity. The Department thanks her for her brilliance, selflessness, and advocacy.

"Increasing access to doula services is one way we are moving in the right direction to advance health equity," Executive Deputy Commissioner Johanne Morne said. "As we move forward, we remember the life of the late Esther Patterson, a birth doula, who dedicated her life to advocating for eliminating health inequities among all people who give birth. The Department will continue to do all we can to provide quality resources to all people who give birth, so they and their babies remain safe and healthy."