WASHINGTON, D.C.— Last week, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bipartisan bill, Delivering Optimally Urgent Labor Access for Veterans Affairs, or the DOULA Act, to establish a pilot program to encourage the use of doulas in the Veterans Health Administration to support pregnant veterans and improve maternal health outcomes. This legislation was borne out of various veteran organizations and leaders such as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Service Women’s Action Network, NJ SOS Veteran Stakeholders group, and advocate Lucy Del Gaudio speaking out on the importance to improve maternal health outcomes for pregnant veterans.

A study in 2010 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom who experienced pregnancy were twice as likely to have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia as those who had not experienced a pregnancy, which can lead to many complications during childbirth.

This has led to an increasing number of doula organizations and veteran stakeholders coming together to advocate for the placement of doulas in the Veterans Health Administration as a support for pregnant veterans.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education found that “expectant mothers matched with a doula had better birth outcomes than did mothers who gave birth without involvement of a doula.”

“Maternal mortality in the United States is a public health crisis that demands urgent action,” said Senator Booker. “Providing increased access to doula care for veterans—especially those who are survivors of sexual trauma or living with mental illness—is a proven, effective way to improve health outcomes for mothers and children and support our veterans.”

“Pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the early days of motherhood can be difficult in the best of circumstances, but for women veterans, they can be further complicated by physical and mental health conditions related to military service,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Legislative Director Joy J. Ilem. “We owe our veterans the care they need, and the D.O.U.L.A. Act would offer much-needed support to women veterans at a time when they need it most. We thank Senators Booker and Blackburn for taking the needs of pregnant women veterans into account and working to establish this unique pilot program to foster better health outcomes for mother and baby as well as encourage veterans to continue using VA’s comprehensive care services, during and after pregnancy.”

“The Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) strongly supports Senator Cory Booker’s D.O.U.L.A Act of 2020. This legislation will provide veterans who are new mothers with trusted support as they begin the joyful journey of motherhood,” said Lory Manning, Captain, US Navy Retired, Director of Government Relations for the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN).

“Thank you Senator Booker for taking the time to listen to the needs of our women veterans and taking action. It’s one step in getting women veterans the healthcare they deserve,” said Co-chair of NJSOSVETS Stake Holder Group Dave Pearson. “We look forward to working with you in the future in giving our veterans a voice and helping to get the services they deserve.”

“Survivors of trauma need to feel fully supported, calm, and confident during their childbirth experience,” said Co-chair of the SOSVETS Stakeholder Groups Women Veteran Subcommittee Lucy Del Gaudio. “The DOULA for VA Act will do that just. This will ensure that women, non-binary, and transgender veterans practicing holistic medicine and wellbeing will be fully supported. I truly appreciate the support that Senator Booker has provided to our sisters in arms and Senator Blackburn for co-sponsoring this bill. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with them both.”

Under the Delivering Optimally Urgent Labor Access for Veterans Affairs, or the DOULA Act, the Department of Veteran Affairs would be required to measure the impact that doula support services have on pregnant veterans birth and mental health outcomes. The pilot program would allow for six Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN), three with the highest percentage of female veterans, and three with the lowest rate of female veterans, to participate and compare results regarding barriers to care. If done successfully, it will lower childbirth complications and incentivize veterans to receive VA care during and after their pregnancy.

The DOULA Act was introduced last week by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Full text of the bill can be viewed here.