It's time for open enrollment and we're seeing some new benefits for expectant families at big-name employers. Walmart is one of them. It just expanded its doula services nationwide, covering up to $1,000 for the cost of a doula during pregnancy.
Walmart joins a handful of other major corporations doing the same thing -- Microsoft, PNC Bank and CVS all offer eligible employees various reimbursement amounts for doulas (statements from each company are provided at the bottom of this article).
Doulas are experts trained to support people before, during and sometimes even after birth. Here's why that support is needed: we're seeing a rise in maternal death rates and it's worse among racial and ethnic groups. According to the CDC, Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.
"Postpartum Support International (PSI), you know, their research shows that one in five mothers and one in ten fathers experience perinatal mental health disorders," said Elizabeth Lilley, program manager for Postpartum Support International'sLegal Justice Program, "which is amazing that they are recognizing the importance of maternal and family health as an employee."
"I often think of doula services as not a luxury at all, but a way for families to have access for education, advocacy and mitigating a lot of potential negative outcomes all in one highly trained professional," said Krista Maltais, an Advanced Postpartum Doula and Postpartum Doula Trainer with DONA International.
According to a VeryWell Family, a resource guide on pregnancy and parenting topics, a birth doula costs on overage between $800 to $2,500 while postpartum doulas can cost on average between $20 and $50 per hour. These costs vary depending on location, doula experience, and the services the doula provides.
You may live in a state where Medicaid reimburses doula services. According to data from The National Health Law Program, eleven states and Washington, D.C. provide coverage.
Another option is to check with your company's human resources department. Policies can vary, but doula costs can be eligible for reimbursement with flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts. Expectant employers can also reach out to their hospital or birth center and ask about on-call doula programs.
"We provide up to $2,000 per pregnancy (for full-time employees, $1,000 for part-time employees) for reimbursement of eligible birth and postpartum doula support to promote maternal health outcomes," said a spokesperson with PNC Bank.
"This applies regardless of whether it is the employee or their spouse/domestic partner who gave birth," the spokesperson added.
PNC Bank says the doula reimbursement is not part of the company's medical coverage but instead available to all eligible PNC employees regardless of whether they have PNC medical coverage.
"We have been piloting a doula benefit, and currently provide a $1,000 doula reimbursement allowance for our Health Connect Plan available to employees and their families in the Puget Sound."
"Eligible CVS Health colleagues can be reimbursed up to $10,000 annually (for eligible family building benefits, including doula services), resulting in greater access to doulas for colleagues and their families."