Ayan Abdullahi first experienced childbirth five years ago when her sister had a baby.

“I got to see what birth is like, and I had an immediate interest in being part of more birth experiences,” Ayan said. “I felt such joy seeing her deliver her child, and it was a privilege for me to be there and help make the birth a little less strenuous.”

Ayan’s sister had a doula as part of her birth team – a maternal support professional who provides physical, informational and emotional support during pregnancy and childbirth. Ayan agreed the doula made a positive difference in her sister’s birth experience.

“All my siblings have had doulas during childbirth and have seen a difference not only in their birth outcomes but in their birth experiences,” Ayan said. “Even though my sister had a great birth team, it’s still valuable having a support person there who knows you and can explain what’s happening and help you make decisions that are right for you.”

Scholarships for training doulas of color

Inspired by what she had seen, Ayan began looking into becoming a doula.

She learned about a scholarship opportunity through Everyday Miracles to train as a doula – a more affordable option for Ayan, who’s getting her master’s degree in parent and family education from the University of Minnesota. The comprehensive program provides training, certification and registration on the Minnesota Department of Health Doula Registry.

HealthPartners is partnering with Everyday Miracles to offer full scholarships to train people from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities to become and work as doulas.

“Everyday Miracles has been a partner with us for a long time, and they share our goal of reducing disparities in birth outcomes in the community,” said Patty Graham, senior quality consultant at HealthPartners. “This scholarship is a new way to improve access to doulas for people of color and make sure all people are cared for and treated with respect during childbirth.”

At HealthPartners, it’s part of our ongoing work to improve the health and well-being of mothers and babies, through programs like our Children’s Health Initiative and health equity efforts focused on eliminating disparities in maternal and infant care.

Improving birth outcomes and experiences

There’s a significant need for doulas of color who share similar backgrounds and experiences with their patients, and studies show doulas of color have a strong commitment to support women from their communities.

“If there were more doulas of color, it would make it a lot easier to find someone who you have a connection with and feel comfortable with,” Ayan said. “Too often, patients aren’t given the opportunity to think about things or ask questions – and it happens a lot more often to people of color. As doulas, we’re there to make sure you always feel included.”

There’s increasing evidence that doulas have a positive impact on birth outcomes and experiences, including decreased cesarean rates, shorter labors and increased breastfeeding rates – all while reducing the overall cost of childbirth. Despite these benefits, many people are still unaware of doula care and the support they provide.

“I want people to have more awareness of doulas and how they can support you,” Ayan said. “There’s a great need, not just for people of color but for anyone who needs an advocate during childbirth.”

Empowering patients through advocacy

Ayan completed her training and is already working as a certified doula while still pursuing her master’s degree. She has clients scheduled for every month this year.

“I gained skills that are applicable and can be used with the hands-on work we have to do,” Ayan said. “The training helped me be more confident as an advocate for mothers by encouraging their goals and empowering them to make decisions that are best for them. From my experience, it’s the best training out there for new doulas of color to work with other people of color.”