Booker, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Provide Pregnant Veterans Access to Doula Services

U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Delivering Optimally Urgent Labor Access for Veterans Affairs Act of 2023 (DOULA Act), legislation that would establish a pilot program to provide doula services to support veterans experiencing pregnancy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. maternal mortality rate increased significantly from 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018 to 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019. Studies show that veterans who experience pregnancy encounter additional challenges. A 2010 report found that pregnant veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom were twice as likely to have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.  

Providing expectant mothers with doulas has been shown to lead to better birth outcomes. Doulas are support providers, trained to provide physical, emotional, and informational support for women throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period.

“As the number of veterans who rely on maternity services from the VA continues to increase, it’s important that we provide our former servicemembers with the support they need during their pregnancy,” said Senator Booker. “By integrating doula support services into the VA, this bipartisan legislation will improve health outcomes for pregnant veterans and their children.”

“I’m proud to join Senator Booker in supporting pregnant veterans by expanding access to doulasupport services. This effort takes a holistic approach to improving maternal health among our veterans. By ensuring that pregnant veterans have access to doulas, we are ultimately supporting women and families who served our country,” said Senator Murkowski. 

“The DOULA for VA ACT is essential for women veterans,” said Lucy Del Gaudio, US Army Veteran, NJ SOS Veterans Stakeholders Board Member. “The importance of this act would bring an enormous health benefit to millions.” 

Under the pilot program, eligible veterans would receive up to 10 care sessions from a doula who would also be trained on military sexual trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder. The legislation would also establish Doula Service Coordinators at each participating medical facility who would also work closely with each facility’s women’s program manager.

The legislation seeks to improve:

  • Maternal, mental health, and infant care outcomes.
  • Integration of doula support services into the Department’s Whole Health Model.
  • The experience of women receiving maternity care from the Department, including by increasing the women’s ability to develop and follow their own birthing plans.
  • Reengagement between veterans and the Department after giving birth.

Full text of the legislation can be found here.