Program Spotlight: Community-Based Outreach Doulas

September 24, 2021 3:26 pm Published by

Community-Based Outreach Doulas: Revolutionizing Birth Support

Open Arms is a leader in community-based birth support, resulting in fewer preterm births, unplanned c-sections, babies with low birth weight, and higher rates of initiating and continuing breast/chestfeeding. We know that emotional and physical challenges do not stop after childbirth and that many families struggle with the transition from pregnancy to full-time parenthood. Research shows that the postpartum period is where the needs of new parents are often overlooked, impacting their health and the relationship with their children. No one is fully prepared for the demands of parenthood overnight, and that’s where our Community-Based Outreach Doula Program comes in.

Our Outreach Doulas are highly trained community health workers that run the only home-visiting program that provides birth support in Washington state. We not only provide support during the prenatal period, labor, and delivery but also postpartum and the early years of childhood. Our approach has proved so effective that we have the state’s highest rates of retention and sustained breast/chestfeeding. It was also the first Community-Based Outreach Doula program to be nationally accredited through HealthConnect One. Critical to our success and the success of families is culturally-responsive support and the use of the evidence-based Promoting First Relationships curriculum as a cornerstone of our Outreach Doula training.

Our communities of focus encompass the Black/African American, Somali, Latine/Latinx, and American Indian/Alaska Native communities of the Puget Sound region. Open Arms helps lower the barriers to access stemming from cultural or linguistic differences by pairing Outreach Doulas with community members of a similar background. Our model of care promotes confidence and trust in the parent-child bond, setting families up for success for the milestones and challenges of early childhood.

While the COVID-19 pandemic presented a new set of challenges for families, Open Arms’ Outreach Doulas have been creative in supporting new parents during this time. Most of their visits have been virtual or socially distant. Yet, in one instance, a member of the team drove over 200 miles to provide emergency support. Through this past year and a half, our Outreach Doulas have cooked homemade cultural foods and organized meal trains for isolated or ill community members as well as “drive-by” birthday celebrations for the babies in our programs. Since March 2020, our Outreach Doulas have:

  • Supported 49 births (including two sets of twins) and 100 families spanning three counties.
  • Participated in 4,000 visits and contacts.
  • Made nearly 2,000 no-contact deliveries of diapers, car seats, and fresh local produce with support from our partnerships with WestSide Baby and Seattle Tilth Alliance.
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