Kadia Paddy had a healthy pregnancy but still had concerns and fears about caring for her newborn after his birth in December 2021 at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
So when Kadia heard about a doula program, offered by the hospital, where trained community peers support mothers in the weeks after childbirth, she asked to join.
“I had anxiety about caring for my baby, and I thought that someone who understands moms and babies could answer my questions and help me,” Kadia says.
Kadia was paired with a postpartum doula who held video chats with her once a week for six weeks. The doula gave Kadia advice on topics such as breastfeeding, nutrition, bathing and swaddling her baby, putting him to sleep safely, treating her c-section wound and knowing when to call her doctor if she experienced certain physical symptoms. The doula also encouraged Kadia to take a bit of time for herself each day.
“It helped me a lot to have someone to speak to about whatever concerns I had about my son or about how I felt,” Kadia says. “The doula gave me a lot of assurance and confidence in myself.”
Kadia was part of a NewYork-Presbyterian program called EMBRACE, which provides free postpartum doulas in the weeks after childbirth. EMBRACE launched as a pilot in July 2020 at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital and now is available at three additional campuses: NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Offered to patients who are income-eligible for Medicaid insurance, EMBRACE plans to serve 1,050 mothers from across New York City this year.
“If you don’t have anybody you can just call and say, ‘What does this mean? Is this something I should be concerned about?’ you’re going to feel lost,” says Kadia’s doula, Sharonda Gardner. “A postpartum doula is there to offer that comfort, guidance, and support to help you navigate those first few weeks of motherhood and help you be the best mom you can be. It’s really mothering the mother.”
EMBRACE works with community-based organizations that are deeply anchored in the community and that provide the doulas: the Caribbean Women’s Health Association in Brooklyn and the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership (NMPP) in Manhattan, which also provides moms with community health workers. Sharonda became a doula five years ago with NMPP after she benefitted from one of their postpartum doulas when her second child was born.
“Doulas have been shown to improve health outcomes,” says Dr. Auja McDougale, medical director of the Women’s Health Practice and Community Health at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and its EMBRACE clinical lead. “One of the most important components is that the doulas who are engaging with the patients are from the community and can relate. Their peer-to-peer support is a much-welcomed complement to the medical care we provide and makes the transition to postpartum recovery better.”