HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Kaci Wood had several goals when she found out she was pregnant, including giving birth without pain medications and breastfeeding.

“I knew doulas would help with that pre and post-birth,” said Wood.

A doulas, as Amy Wilt, LPN, explains, supports people “through their pregnancy by being more of an emotional and physical support for them.

Wilt is a certified doula and owner of Dauphin County Doulas, an agency that provides doulas to people who are looking for them.

“People are starting to get educated about what we do, how we can help, and the benefits of a doula,” said Wilt.

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Several studies show the presence of a doula decreases the need for pain medication and C-sections, lowers health costs, and can improve the overall outcome for mothers and their babies.

“The issue with nurses is, as excellent as they are, they actually only do about 25% of patient care, so that is leaving the birthing person 75% of the time alone and that’s is significant,” said Wilt.

Wilt was by Wood’s side for the birth of both of her children.

“You are able to tell her what’s going on with your body and she is able to tell you what to do. She would suggest different positions to help progress my labor,” said Wood. “Amy actually stayed with me until I went to the post partum unit, which it just gives me chills because not every doula would do that. She is super special to me and my family.”

When a woman is in labor a doula can be her voice, helping communicate her wishes to the medical staff.

“She was able to advocate for me so I could take the fetal heart monitor off and get up and move around and progress my labor,” said Wood. “One thing that I really wanted was delayed cord clamping and no bath in the hospital, because there are certain things on {newborn babies} that protect them, and she made sure those things happened.”

Doula services, which can cost between $800 and $1,500, are not covered by insurance.

“I am sure some first time moms, that don’t have the financial ability to pay for a doula, just don’t even look into it because they know they are going to be financially burdened with that,” said Wood.

Pennsylvania State Representative Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) is working to change that.

House Bill 1175 requires Medicaid to reimburse for doula care and it really is centered around the issue of maternal mortality. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania we saw a 21% increase in maternal mortality deaths and that was pre pandemic,” said Rep. Cephas.

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Rep. Cephas says the Wolf administration was able to request a waiver to help pay for doulas through Medicaid.

“They were able to request a waiver from the Federal Government to incorporate this in their Medicaid portfolio, so that is something that they are moving ahead and already doing so we don’t necessarily need the legislation to move. Next up is getting that private insurance to do their part. Often times Medicaid goes first and then once studies have shown that it decreases health risk, it decreases cost, then private insurance companies tend to follow,” said Rep. Cephas.

“If enough people complain that they want coverage hopefully they will listen,” said Wilt.

Wood is hoping other moms will have the opportunity to experience the same support she had during her births.

“It was one of the best things I did for myself. Amy is just really important because she impacted my life. She brought my kids into this world and I am really proud of that,” said Wood.

Rep. Cephas says they are drafting a bill right to have doulas covered under private insurance as well.

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