Kean Bills to Expand Prenatal Care, Honor Doulas Pass Committee

Kean Bills to Expand Prenatal Care, Honor Doulas Pass Committee

Two pieces of legislation sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) to improve maternal healthcare in New Jersey have passed the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizen Committee.

The first bipartisan bill expands Medicaid coverage to include group prenatal care services. The second establishes New Jersey “Doula Appreciation Week.”

“Increasing access to group prenatal care provides a multitude of benefits to both mother and child,” Kean said. “Studies show this additional support leads to a decline in premature births and low birthweight babies, as well as an increase in breastfeeding rates and better pregnancy spacing. That legislation goes hand in hand with our effort to recognize the role doulas play in providing continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to new moms. By expanding opportunities for quality prenatal care and raising awareness of the value of having a doula by your side, we can ensure that every baby born in New Jersey gets a healthy start.”

The first bill, S-3405, would expand the State Medicaid program to cover group prenatal care services in pursuant with guidelines set forth by CenteringPregnancy. The CenteringPregnancy model, developed by the Centering Healthcare Institute, is designed to enhance participation in group prenatal care from minority and low-income communities.

This legislation was modeled after South Carolina’s recent implementation of a similar program.

The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that “group prenatal care is an innovative and promising model with comparable pregnancy outcomes to individual prenatal care in the general population and improved outcome in some demographic groups.”

In New Jersey, African American mothers are dying at disproportionately higher rates than white mothers during childbirth. Group prenatal care visits have been shown to virtually eliminate racial disparities in premature births.

In reducing premature births, group prenatal care services can also provide cost savings to healthcare systems, as preterm births can be more than ten times more expensive than that of a full-term delivery.

The second piece of legislation is a joint resolution, SJR-120, to designate March 22 to March 28th of each years as “Doula Appreciation Week” in New Jersey.

A doula is a trained professional who is employed to provide continuous support to mothers before birth, during labor, and after childbirth.

Data suggests that support from doulas is associated with lower caesarian section rates, fewer obstetric interventions, fewer complications during and after childbirth, decreased use of pain medication, and shorter labor hours.

“Expanding prenatal care will lead to more happy and healthy new moms and newborns,” Kean added. “Increasing access to these services will undoubtedly lead to lower mortality and morbidity rates for mothers. I hope to see our bipartisan maternity care package continue to advance as swiftly as possible. The lives of mothers and children in New Jersey depend on it.”

These bills are part of a comprehensive bipartisan bill package sponsored by Senator Tom Kean, Senator Joe Vitale, Senator Bob Singer, and Senator Ron Rice to improve maternal, prenatal, and newborn healthcare Statewide.

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