Swedish doula services now available to low income patients for free or at a significant discount

February 28, 2017

Last year, Swedish started offering doula services at all four Swedish birth centers, becoming the first in Washington State to have this type of hospital-based doula program. Beginning immediately, Swedish is now offering the same service for free or at a significantly reduced rate for low-income patients in need.

“Childbirth is exciting, but it’s chaotic and it’s nice to have someone to take away some of the anxiety of it,” said Arleh Alvarey, a Swedish doula charity care recipient.  “We’re a low income family and I haven’t been able to work.  I also have a brother who is battling leukemia, so a lot of money in our family goes toward that.”

The doulas are similar to a birth coach, providing parents-to-be with emotional and physical support before, during and after delivery. They are a non-medical provider and work in collaboration with the nurses and either the doctor or midwife the patient has chosen as the clinical care provider. Support offered by doulas has been associated with improved birth outcomes, including shortened labor and fewer operative deliveries.

“Some of our lower income patients face additional challenges and anxieties in preparing for the arrival of a baby, and doula care can be especially helpful for these families,” said Jocelyn Alt, lead doula at Swedish.  “By meeting our clients in their home before and after the birth and being there as a consistent presence for the delivery, doulas make the labor experience feel less intimidating and more personal.”

The Swedish doula program was structured so that all of the proceeds above administrative costs from self-pay doula services go back into the program to provide subsidized doula care for low-income patients. Applications for reduced cost or free doula care must be initiated by a provider for consideration and are prioritized by those patients with the highest need, such as those with little other social support, English as a second language, or challenges such as addiction, abuse, or mental health barriers.

The Swedish team is made up of 41 doulas— all independent contractors of Swedish. There are multilingual members of the team who speak Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, German, Russian, Polish, French and Somali.

More information about Swedish doula services is available at swedish.org/doulas or call 206-215-6106. If you are interested in donating to help provide doula services for those in need, visit https://community.swedish.org/donate, and input 'Other' as the designation and “Doula Services."