My unconventional path to becoming a Doula

From healthcare consulting to the dynamic world of health-tech startups, and now to building Cradle & Coos — a platform dedicated to providing expectant parents with access to comprehensive care services for both birth preparation and postpartum support, this is my journey.

In 2018, my older sister who lives in Pakistan, welcomed her first baby. In keeping with South Asian cultural traditions, she moved into our parents' home for three months to recover from the delivery. The first member of her ‘nurturing team’ was our mom, who prepared nutritious foods like Panjiri to support lactation, while also taking on diaper changes and baby baths. A live-in nanny contributed her expertise by massaging both mother and baby, sterilizing bottles, doing the laundry, and running various household errands. As for me, I was a consultant at McKinsey & Company in Dubai, making the most of my travel benefits to fly to Karachi every weekend to spend time and cuddle with my new nephew. Of course, these visits also included my fair share of diaper changes and burping duties.

Which meant that my sister's primary responsibility was to feed the baby and focus on her own recovery from the demanding experience her body had undergone. 

One might assume that with all the help it was easy for her, but I witnessed firsthand the challenging emotional period she went through. The mental stress disrupted her sleep, concerns for the baby weighed heavily, and the prospect of caring for a baby on her own eventually loomed as a daunting challenge. However, she was not alone in feeling this way. Up to 80% of new mothers experience what's known as the "baby blues," short-term mood dips due to the myriad changes accompanying a new baby. Additionally, up to 20% of new mothers suffer from a more severe and prolonged form of postpartum depression.

The worst part is that many do not have nearly the level of support that my sister enjoyed. Conversations with several moms in my US-based circle over the past year have revealed that many do not have family or friends within a 50-mile radius to rely on. Many of them, even in corporate roles or startups with generous parental leaves, find themselves returning to work within a few weeks postpartum. Some felt the pressure to shorten their leave to secure timely promotions, or did not want to disappoint their teams who were relying on their contributions. And most definitely very few of them paid any attention to the most important part of being a new mom: self-care.

In my recent role as Chief of Staff at Memora Health, I observed firsthand the significant impact that even simple interventions could play in improving how new moms experience birth and postpartum. The automation of postpartum depression screenings at UPenn by Memora Health highlighted that routine measures could lead to meaningful changes in outcomes. In this role I also had the opportunity to meet with numerous startup teams focused on improving access to maternal health care through tech and AI. And such interventions play an important role in democratizing access to quality care. 

However, every mom’s journey through birth and postpartum is unique, and requires curation of a ‘nurturing team’ similar to what my sister had: doula support, nutrition and meal prep,  massages, parental counseling, lactation consulting, night nanny and more. And more importantly, it requires a local, community-based approach that incorporates cultural nuances. 

For this very reason, I decided to transition from my recent role as Chief of Staff at Memora Health. Over the past three months, I have dedicated myself to training to become a certified birth and postpartum doula, engaging with hundreds of moms to identify the gaps in their care, and establishing a broad network that includes outstanding doulas, lactation consultants, massage and acupuncture therapists, parental counselors, nutritionists, and more.

This journey has culminated in the creation of Cradle & Coos, a platform dedicated to providing expectant parents (currently in the Bay Area) with access to comprehensive maternal care services for both birth preparation and postpartum support. In doing so, our primary objective is to alleviate the financial strain on new parents by ensuring cost transparency from the start, collaborating with employers, simplifying the use of FSA/HSA, upskilling partners and other caregivers to bridge gaps, providing flexible payment options, and facilitating insurance coverage—with the ultimate vision to advocate for full reimbursement.

The learnings from my journey so far have been immense and certainly warrants another blog post. However, some statistics highlight the urgent state of maternal health in the United States that I want to highlight include:

  • Since 1990, global maternal mortality has decreased by 43%; the United States is the only developed country where it has increased (in the last 10 years, it has almost doubled).
  • Up to 45% of new mothers report experiencing birth trauma.
  • 35% percent of women report feeling lonely postpartum, with rates spiking to 50% during COVID.
  • Despite evidence showing that continuous care during birth and postpartum not only improves care outcomes but significantly enhances the experience, only 6% of births in the United States today involve doula services. Remarkably, 100% of participants in a controlled study positively rated their experience with their doula.

There have been some positive strides to improve these stats, for example as of 2024, 43 states have initiated steps towards Medicaid coverage for doula services. Additionally, last month, legislators in Washington state passed a budget to increase the reimbursement rate for state-certified doulas to $3,500 per birth, positioning it as the highest rate in the country once realized. However, there remains a significant journey ahead to ensure every birth is well-supported and cared for. At Cradle and Coos, we aspire to be one small but crucial piece of the puzzle in accomplishing that!

FYI: If you are interested in maternal health, or thoughts on what I am building, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out at muneeza at


Muneeza Patel is the founder of Cradle and Coos, a platform dedicated to connecting expectant parents with birth and postpartum support services. As a full-spectrum doula, she passionately advocates for every parent to receive a customized experience tailored to their unique needs. Muneeza possesses a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Computational Biology from MIT, and brings over eight years of experience in building and scaling digital health startups, and healthcare consulting at McKinsey & Company. 

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