Walmart offers doula support benefit to help employees give birth safely


Expectant mothers need all the support they can get when it comes to giving birth safely. Employers are uniquely positioned to provide comfort and care to potentially prevent the risk of maternal mortality through specialized healthcare benefits.

The U.S. has a high rate of maternal mortality compared to other countries — in 2018, there were 17 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, compared to other developed countries like the Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand, where the rate was three deaths or fewer per every 100,000 births for the same year, according to data from the Commonwealth Fund.

Walmart is expanding its healthcare benefits for Georgia employees, a state with a high maternal mortality rate of 27.7 deaths per 100,000 births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The retail giant is offering up to $1,000 of coverage for doula services, in an effort to combat the state’s high maternal mortality rate and make quality healthcare more accessible and affordable for its employees.

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Doulas are non-medical professionals who are trained to support women during and after they give birth, according to a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Women who utilize the support of a doula often have less stressful labor, are more likely to skip an epidural and are less likely to have a C-section.

Doulas can serve as an essential service for vulnerable and underserved populations, especially among Black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy related health issues than white women, according to the CDC. Walmart embraced the benefit as a way to support mothers-to-be and expand their commitment to racial equality throughout their organization.

“We identified opportunities that specifically focused on maternal health and infant health because we know that from where doulas have been implemented that we’ll see lower C-section rates, higher breastfeeding rates and lower infant mortality,” says Lisa Woods, vice president of physical and emotional well-being at Walmart. “We also know that doulas can reduce the impacts of racism and racial bias in maternal and maternity care.”

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Walmart’s doula benefit will be added to its Life with Baby program, which includes no-cost access to resources like one-on-one nurse coaching, tools to track their daily progress and educational resources from leading experts. Walmart plans to monitor the doula program’s utilization and success rates in Georgia and will consider rolling it out more broadly in the future, Woods says.

“We believe that all mothers and children deserve an opportunity to thrive throughout their life journey and not be negatively impacted by access to prenatal and postpartum care,” Woods said in a blog post announcing the benefit. “We are committed to helping our associates have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, and offering a strong suite of maternity benefits is among the critical ways we can support our associates and their families during pregnancy and beyond.”


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