Walmart is expanding doula services for its employees nationwide.
The major retailer and employer first introduced doula services as a pilot program over the past two years in four states: Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana and Illinois. The benefit is now expanding nationwide, excluding Hawaii, and is available to associates on most of the Walmart medical plans.
The decision is a reflection of the company’s desire to support maternity care and family building services, according to an announcement.
“We know one of the most important times in our associates’ lives is when they make the decision to grow their families,” Walmart's vice president of physical and emotional well-being Lisa Woods wrote in a blog post making the announcement. “When our associates make this decision, we want to ensure they have access to quality health care options and feel supported during this exciting, yet sometimes stressful, time in life.”
As disparities in maternal health outcomes rise, a growing number of organizations are focused on family building and women’s health benefits.
Doulas are experts trained to support mothers leading up to and throughout the labor and delivery process and must be certified. Doulas are critical to minimizing gaps in care and reducing disparities, according to advocates like March of Dimes (PDF), especially important in healthcare deserts. There has been a 2% rise in maternity care deserts since 2020—meaning 1,119 additional counties, per the nonprofit.
Additional studies suggest doulas help reduce cesarean section rates and reduce the length of labor. They provide advocacy and support, especially for those at risk of discrimination, like people of color and LGBTQ people. They are also trained to recognize mental health conditions, which are the leading cause of maternal mortality.
Walmart's expanded benefit covers up to $1,000 for doula services during pregnancy and is part of a suite of benefits offered through Walmart’s Life with Baby program. Walmart also offers surrogacy and adoption benefits, like financial support of up to $20,000 for those eligible, and paid parental leave.