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Horizon to Cover Birthing Doulas for many starting January 1, 2023


Doulas provide physical, emotional and informational support that can improve health for moms and babies

There's a health care crisis for expectant and new moms of color in New Jersey – and the attentive, nurturing care of birthing doulas can help. That's what the research says, and it's why Horizon will be expanding coverage for birthing doula care in 2023 for many Horizon members.

The facts are stark. Currently, New Jersey is ranked among the worst in the nation for maternal mortality (47th out of 50 states) and has one of the widest racial disparities for both maternal and infant mortality, according to the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan.

That’s why in 2020, Horizon partnered with the State to match at-risk expectant mothers with Medicaid coverage with birthing doulas. Now, we are expanding these benefits starting on January 1, 2023 to include members who purchase an individual or family plan directly from Horizon or through GetCoveredNJ. By offering these services more broadly, Horizon hopes to expand on the progress already made in the fight for equitable maternal health.

What is a doula?

A birthing doula is a hands-on coach and advocate for an expectant mother, from early pregnancy to post-delivery. For decades, many expectant mothers have sought out these trained professionals for the continuous physical, emotional, and informational support they provide.

A track record of better health outcomes

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, mothers who receive continuous support are:

  • More likely to have a shorter labor, and an easier birth for mom and baby alike
  • Less likely to give birth by caesarian section (which can increase complications and infection).
  • Less likely to have a preterm birth or deliver a low-birthweight baby
  • More likely to breastfeed

How are doulas different from midwives or physician assistants?

Birthing doulas are more like coaches, supporting moms and babies as they go from their first doctor’s visits through labor and delivery.

Although birthing doulas were not typically covered by most insurance, many expectant moms still seek them out. While they don’t perform medical procedures or give medical advice, birthing doulas are trained in providing evidence-based education and practical assistance with the ins and outs of pregnancy, often supporting the rest of the care team every step of the way.

Familiar faces and places make a difference  

A birthing doula is often a familiar face from the neighborhood, one who knows the local organizations providing a wide range of services and who can connect those services to people in need. Not surprisingly, they are also often the best advocates for mothers, bridging communication gaps between patients and providers. Birthing doulas prompt their clients to ask questions and share information about symptoms, making their meetings with medical practitioners more productive.

A birthing doula with community ties can work with moms to acquire the baby’s necessities, such as clothes, cribs, baby formula and a stroller. Birthing doulas can also help moms access mental health services if they show signs of postpartum depression, or connect them to public assistance programs, like WIC, that help ensure maternal and newborn nutritional needs are met.

Specific services a birthing doula might provide include:

  • Supporting client decisions
  • Connecting to community-based resources
  • Creating a birth plan
  • Providing positive affirmations
  • 24/7 on-call support after 37 weeks until birth
  • Collaboration with maternal care teams
  • Physical touch during labor (i.e. massage, pressure points and position changes)
  • Postpartum home visits to support recovery

How will I access doula services?

Beginning on January 1st, 2023, birthing doulas will be listed in Horizon’s Doctor & Hospital Finder directory. New Jersey mothers will be able to find the right birthing doula to support them through prenatal visits, delivery, and postpartum. If you’re interested in working with a birthing doula during your pregnancy, discuss it with your doctor.