Walmart moms get expanded doula aid

This undated file photo shows Walmart's sign in front of its Bentonville headquarters.

Walmart Inc. is expanding its doula services to expectant mothers nationwide who are enrolled in most of the company's medical plans, the company said earlier this week.

Doulas are non-medical professionals who provide physical and emotional support to pregnant women and their partners up to and through labor and delivery.

Walmart started a pilot program in Georgia two years ago. Last year, it added Louisiana, Illinois and Indiana, mainly because of high mortality rates among mothers or a lack of OB-GYN services in their area.

The doula benefit covers up to $1,000 for services during pregnancy.

Lisa Woods, vice president of physical and emotional well-being at Walmart, cited a March of Dimes report in August that said more than 5.6 million women live in U.S. counties with no or limited access to maternity care.

According to the National Black Doula Association, having a doula as part of a birthing team can decrease cesarean sections by 50%, shorten labor time by 25%, and reduce the need for other medical interventions by more than 50%.

"We are always looking for ways to evolve our family building benefits," Woods said.