Margaret got a letter in the mail one day telling her that her health plan had switched. She was now covered by Tufts Health Plan, a plan that was new to her. Soon after she received a welcome call with more information.
“That’s when I told them that I was pregnant,” Margaret said. It was her first baby, so the entire experience was new.
Thankfully her mom, her family, and her boyfriend were there for support. But on the phone, the Tufts Health Plan member service representative asked her if she had a doula.
A doula is a non-medically-trained professional who supports and guides women during their pregnancy and afterward.
Doula By My Side is a no-cost benefit offered to Tufts Health Plan’s members who receive their health coverage through Medicaid. The program, a collaboration with the Pettaway Pursuit Foundation, began in 2015 as a pilot in Worcester, Mass. Since then, it has grown state-wide in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Doulas can help with everything from scheduling prenatal appointments to teaching how to breastfeed, coaching you for delivery day, and showing how to take care of an infant.
Around 350 moms have participated since the founding and as of July 2019, the program added support for moms during labor and delivery.
“Just the thought of another person that I can ask questions to was really helpful to me,” Margaret said. She signed up.
Soon after, Margaret met Elizabeth, her doula, in person. From there began a journey that would last 9 months, and beyond.
In-Person Help at Home
“When you first find out you’re pregnant, it’s all about decision making,” Margaret said. “You have a laundry list of things to do.
“I didn’t even know what the list was,” Margaret said. But Elizabeth was there to help. She offered information, resources, and reassurance, helping Margaret feel empowered.
“She just started asking me all these questions that really helped me think about what I wanted,” Margaret said. They would meet for about an hour each time.
Margaret learned about different types of deliveries, what to look for, and what to expect. She learned about breastfeeding, day care, what to bring in a hospital bag, and how to prepare her home for the baby.
“It was never ‘you should do this’ or ‘you should do that,’” Margaret said. “Elizabeth definitely helped me find my voice and feel comfortable.” So when it was time for delivery day, she would be ready for anything.
Emmy was born in the spring of 2019. She is a happy, smiling baby and “a really good baby,” Margaret said. “My pregnancy was just really, really positive.
“When I had her, I texted Elizabeth right away!” Margaret said. A week later, Elizabeth came to visit Margaret at home and helped her set up the breast pump.
Emmy is now 5 months old. Margaret is back to school for creative writing and working as a medical interpreter. Emmy stays at day care during the day, and Margaret still texts Elizabeth anytime she has a question.
“Just questions about breastfeeding, or, ‘the baby’s doing this, what does that mean?’” Margaret said. More recently, it’s about what foods Emmy can start to try.
Whenever they talk, she knows she will get extra details that she might not have thought about. But importantly, it’s a person she can rely on.
“It’s just like that extra person that can, you know, be your friend and all that stuff in the process of having a baby.
“If you are part of Tufts Health Plan, and if you are interested in the doula program, definitely do it … you will learn so much.”
To learn more about the doula program, call 888-257-1985 or visit here.