The Arizona Department of Health Services launched a doula licensing program to help support maternal health in the state. A doula is a trained, non-medical professional who helps before, during and after the child birthing process.

A lot of people I know are very passionate about doulas being able to get into a lot of underrepresented communities and diverse communities to provide support that might be needed, said Megan McMinn, who is the ADHS Bureau Chief with Special Licensing.

ADHS states, Studies have shown that doulas can help decrease the risk of adverse maternal health outcomes, particularly among women who are at higher risk of maternal morbidity and mortality.

Doulas provide emotional, physical and informational support, but they do not provide health services that a doctor or nurse would.

Shannon Alexander has four children of her own and has been a doula for over a decade. She has her own company, Blessed Birth.

She says she entered this field to help clients better understand their choices and provide them with a positive experience.

Doulas are non-judgemental support for the birthing process. So planning and preparing for the birth, whatever your goals are, we are there to support it, said Alexander.

There is no concrete timeline for when a client may decide to start using a doula.

I have someone who might get a positive pregnancy test and call me immediately, especially if theyve already had a baby with me. And sometimes its further down the path. Ive had people hire me after their due date, said Alexander.

Alexander is expecting positive changes from the ADHS program.

Im really hoping that this opens up the door for more people to become doulas, to get paid for their services, and to serve especially our black and indigenous cultures, said Alexander.

According to ADHS, Applicants that meet the requirements for licensure and are granted doula certification will receive a three-year license to provide certified services.

More information on the program can be found here.