Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum: Your Guide to Accessing Free and Low-Cost Care

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We’ve all heard the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But what does that mean for modern parents, who are so often siloed from the people that once provided essential support? In ELLE’s It Takes a Village series, we’re exploring the intersection of parenthood and community, including the costly services that have sprung up in the village’s wake and the many resources still available for birthing people. As Cleo Wade wrote in an original poem for this series: “Big love (the kind that changes the world) is group work, always.”


In the middle of my first pregnancy, I went for an anatomy scan that nearly everyone gets at the 20-week mark. Mothers tend to be nervous and excited for this moment—while you get to see your baby, the scan also checks whether everything is working well. At mine, my doctor told me matter-of-factly, “Your baby is measuring small.” She put me on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I was terrified, but I knew there was somebody I could invite onto my team who could help me through.

As I sat home 24/7, waiting for my baby to grow like an incubator, I used the time to research and interview doulas. Once I hired our doula Karla, she quickly made all the difference. Every time I was anxious about something being wrong with my baby or fearful something would go wrong with the birth, she not only reassured me but equipped me with knowledge to empower myself and my growing family. Because of her, I found I was one of the only people at my new-mom support groups who was satisfied with her birth experience.

After the birth, I remember my husband cradling our daughter and asking, “What if Karla had not been there?” I shuddered at the thought. Not only did it change the course of my life—I made a career change and became a doula myself—but I also promised myself I would never give birth without a doula again. Three children later, I haven’t. Turns out support isn’t a luxury for birthing people; it’s a necessity.

And while doulas can provide one kind of support, there are other low-cost and no-cost options available to assist in anyone in their birthing experience. Finances are a common stressor for many people preparing to have a baby; it can often feel like you’re bleeding money. But in the doula world, we try our best to connect people with services and resources that make a massive difference and require a relatively low financial investment. The guide below contains some of my favorite resources for people having babies, so you can get the care you need and deserve.

Free Perinatal Support for Birthing People


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7 Swaddles

Owned by postpartum doula Kimberly Bepler, 7 Swaddles exists to help you understand and soothe your baby. In a series of free videos, Bepler explains why you might want to use each of the seven swaddles, then demonstrates the technique in detail. These videos are easy to follow, can be watched all at once or individually, and are helpful for newborns (0-3 months) and infants (3+ months).

Be Her Village

Be Her Village is a modern-day (and arguably more helpful) alternative to your typical baby registry. You can register for funds to pay for your doula, childbirth education, pelvic floor physical therapy, lactation support, mental health support, and more. Parents-to-be add the services they want to their registry, and friends and family send money directly to the new parents using Be Her Village’s unique cash registry. You don’t need another bottle washer or crib sheet; you need help, and Be Her Village assists your community in optimizing support for you.

Chocolate Milk Café

Chocolate Milk Café is an organization dedicated to providing care to families of African descent. Founded by nurse and breastfeeding educator Hakima Tafunzi Payne, it hosts lactation support groups across 11 states and Canada, providing direct counseling and advocacy for Black families.

Expectful

Bookmark this website for 24/7 news on all things birthing, from fertility to motherhood. Expectful is a health and news hub that shares articles, provides nutritional advice, and even has a meditation app. There are great first-person articles from women in the Expectful community that discuss everything from sharing the joy of a positive pregnancy test to birthing plans gone wrong.

First Droplets

Pediatrician, Stanford professor, and breastfeeding expert Dr. Jane Morton founded First Droplets to draw attention to the first hours and days after a baby is born. She describes this as a critical period for making milk for your baby. Visit the website for videos and Q&As about milk production before and after the baby’s arrival and how to make it all work.

JustBirth Space

JustBirth Space specialists provide free virtual perinatal support to individuals worldwide throughout pregnancy, labor and birth, postpartum, and beyond. Specialists are available for support and respond to your messages between 8 A.M. and 10 P.M. ET. They aim to center the experiences of BIPOC individuals, affirm LGBTQIA2+ communities, and support all birthing people on their journeys. Look at these specialists as your expert guides to all things related to maternal health.

Kellymom

Founded by Kelly Bonyata, an international board certified lactation consultant, Kellymom is a treasure trove of free information about breastfeeding and all of the things that go along with it—including pumping, soothing babies, going back to work, pain, and more. It’s the perfect place to do your middle-of-the-night Googling.

La Leche League

La Leche League is one of the longest-running breastfeeding support organizations in the world. Trained volunteer leaders in over 80 countries are available for free lactation support via phone and text, with many available to meet in homes or hospitals. Leaders also run support groups to promote mother-to-mother connection and education. Support group topics are designed to teach participants why and how to breastfeed, how to troubleshoot problems that come up, and how to start solids and wean from breastfeeding. Use the Leader/Group Locator map on the website to find the nearest options for support near you.

MasterClass in Childbirth

U.K.-based app MasterClass in Childbirth brings childbirth education to your fingertips. It’s designed to guide and support you in every stage of your maternal health: pregnancy, labor, birth, and beyond—all for free!

MotherToBaby

MotherToBaby provides evidence-based information about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Browse the easy-to-read resources, which are available in English and Spanish.

Pampers

Pampers offers more than just diapers. Through its site, it provides a free, nine-part birth and postpartum class. This series takes you from prenatal check-ups to newborn care and everything in between via short, thorough videos.

Pregnancy and Postpartum TV

You don’t need to hire a personal trainer to have a healthy and fit pregnancy. Created by prenatal and postnatal fitness instructor and yoga and pilates teacher Jessica Pumple, the Pregnancy and Postpartum TV YouTube channel has free workouts, childbirth education videos, and steps for support with recovery.

Prenatal Yoga Center

Prenatal Yoga Center serves the perinatal community by offering yoga, childbirth education, and parenting preparation classes. You can watch free prenatal videos at your convenience. What’s more, the center also has a podcast and an educational blog.

Ritual Movement

Ritual Movement is designed to support birthing people in recovering their pelvic floor after birth. The site provides free videos for pelvic floor health and strength by occupational therapist Cait Van Damm, founder of Ritual Pelvic Health.

The Miles Circuit

Is your labor going on for an extra-long time? For people experiencing this frustration (hey, maybe even you, right now!), this 90-minute circuit is designed to help naturally induce labor or move along a labor that seems to no longer be progressing. This group of positions does not hurt a baby that is already lined up correctly. The circuit is free, and the site provides pictures and steps to help instruct you on how to do the exercises correctly.

WIC (Women Infants Children) Breastfeeding Support

WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To be eligible for WIC, families must have an income at or below a threshold set by their state; you can then see a breastfeeding counselor for direct coaching, take a class, visit a WIC office, or browse online resources to learn more about how to breastfeed successfully.

Low-Cost Support for Birthing People


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Birthsmarter

Birthsmarter offers award-winning online childbirth educational tools. You can choose between live and on-demand classes, ranging from $45 to $295, but to make its resources truly inclusive and accessible to all families, Birthsmarter offers pay-what-you-can and pay-it-forward pricing throughout the site. If you have access to disposable income or generational wealth, consider contributing to the community fund to help Birthsmarter serve families with limited resources.

Evidence Based Birth

Evidence Based Birth provides information about childbirth for families, communities, and professionals, designed to help you make informed choices. You can access free resources via the site’s blog, podcast, and informative e-mail list. Evidence Based Birth also offers childbirth classes around the U.S., including Puerto Rico. There are options for virtual classes that will pair you with classmates who live near you. It’s recommended that you look for a date that starts between 26 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, but if you are already closer to your birth, fear not: you can also check out the “Advanced Classes” options. Prices start at $300, but they also accept Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) payments.

Go Milk Yourself

As a former teacher, doula, and lactation consultant, I founded Go Milk Yourself to take the stress out of feeding babies. Check out the website for insurance-covered or low-cost lactation support offered via telehealth; take my signature course on Hand Expression (getting milk out with your hands instead of a pump); and follow @go_milkyourself on Instagram for resources designed to help you feed your baby on your terms. Options range from free to $150.

One Huddle

For a monthly fee of $9, One Huddle will invite you to a Slack group to ask unlimited questions, get expert answers in 24 hours, and search through Q&As from other parents. When you ask questions in the community, you not only get answers from vetted, certified support experts ready to answer all your new-parent questions, but you also get shared experiences from parents who are in the same boat.

Share the Drop

Share the Drop is a free app founded by yoga teacher and doula Kelly Cox that connects mothers with excess breast milk to mothers in need of milk for their babies. It’s free for donors and $9.99/month for recipients (with the fee waived for SNAP and WIC recipients).

Spinning Babies

Spinning Babies helps expectant mothers optimize the baby’s position in the womb. Learn techniques for comfort in pregnancy and smoother progress in childbirth. Renowned midwife Gail Tully offers practical work for your body to give birth naturally. The Parent Class digital download costs $26.95 and earned five stars from over 50 reviews.

The Educated Birth

The Educated Birth provides digital and physical resources, including online courses, for an empowered birthing experience. This is great for first-time parents, birthing people having another child, low-intervention births, cesarean births, or vaginal birth after cesarean delivery. Prices range from $19 to $249; the mindful pregnancy workbook costs $34.

VBAC Facts

VBAC Facts provides evidence-based information about vaginal birth after cesarean delivery (a.k.a. VBACs). The site offers free resources and paid programs, beginning at $299 for the Essential Package, a six-hour program broken into 30 bite-size lessons. A sliding scale is available for BIPOC women and birthing people, and once you pay for the course, you have lifetime access.

Grants for Expectant Parents


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BirthFund

Founded by Elaine Welteroth, BirthFund had its inaugural launch, providing $10,000 to 10 single women to help support their birthing journeys. Founding family funders, who each gave $10,000, include Kelly Rowland, Savannah James, Serena Williams, Karlie Kloss, and more. While funds have been given out for 2024, visit the website for more information.

Kickass Single Mom Stimulus Grant

Grant founder Emma Johnson was raised by a single mother and raised two children on her own after her husband left. Defying the odds, she built a full, financially secure life for herself—and dedicated her career to helping other single moms do the same. She runs the website Wealthy Single Mommy, which offers free resources for single moms, as well as dating, money, and co-parenting advice. Through her Kickass Single Mom Stimulus Grant, Johnson gives $500 a month to a single mother, no strings attached.

Love Delivered

Pregnant or recently postpartum families living in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. can apply to receive doula services through Love Delivered’s grant program, powered by Mama Glow Foundation and the hair care company Carol’s Daughter.

Read More of Our ‘It Takes a Village’ Series
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When Did We Monetize the Village?
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Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Doula, From a Doula
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Read Cleo Wade’s New Poem About Love and Community
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