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Exclusive: Oula raises $19M Series A to flip the maternity care model

Illustration of a baby onesie printed with the image of a $100 bill.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Maternity care provider Oula raised $19.1 million in Series A funds for its hybrid model uniting midwives and obstetricians, CEO Adrianne Nickerson tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Pregnant people in the U.S. die at three times the rate of most other high-income countries, and the rate of deaths among pregnant Black people are an additional three times higher than the rate for white people.

Yes, and: A 2020 study published in The Lancet Global Health suggested that scaling up midwife services — one of Oula's core goals — could help fill gaps in health care access and reduce maternal mortality.

  • "Midwifery should be part of any pregnancy model," says Leslie Schrock, a serial women's health investor and author. "It’s what families want and deserve. They take more time in appointments and they’re trained to focus on the whole person."
  • "Walking into an appointment with them feels like half therapy, half medical treatment," Schrock adds.

Deal details: 8VC led the round, which brings Oula's total funding to $22.3 million.

  • Insiders including Chelsea Clinton's Metrodora, the Female Founders Fund, Collaborative Fund and Alumni Ventures also participated in the round.
  • While Nickerson declined to disclose the company's current valuation, she tells Axios it is 8x higher than its post-seed raise figure, which PitchBook estimated at $8.2 million.
  • The fresh funds will go toward expanding Oula's postpartum care offerings and adding sonography to its list of services. The company will likely raise its Series B sometime in 2023.

State of play: New York City-based Oula joins a flock of new and freshly funded companies focused on women's health and reproductive care including:

How it works: Oula offers a combination of in-person and virtual maternal care and operates two clinics in New York City.

  • It accepts most major insurance plans including Aetna, Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield (commercial and Medicaid). Oula patients' median age is 34.
  • Services include prenatal visits, virtual classes and visits, delivery at Mount Sinai West hospital, and virtual and in-person postpartum check-ins.

The other side: Oula does not currently offer two services Schrock says are incredibly helpful for pregnant people and families: home visits or pelvic floor therapy.

  • The company does refer patients to its network of providers for the latter.

The backstory: Nickerson co-founded Oula after cofounding and leading Robin Care, a health tech company focused on cancer care, and says the overlaps are striking.

  • "You might not think of oncology and pregnancy as similar, but both are all-consuming — they take over your life, and the challenges go beyond just the clinical," she says.

One fun thing: Oula is pronounced "oo-la" (like doula) to emphasize the importance of focusing on pregnant peoples' experiences during pregnancy and childbirth.

What they're saying: Nickerson says Oula's model aims to be affordable and inclusive by accepting insurance, offering culturally competent care and "centering women and their voices."

  • "I started family planning in my 30s," Nickerson adds, "and I was floored that we take women’s voices away from care and have a really paternalistic system."
  • "We are focused on creating something accessible. We didn’t want to be a 1% model," she says.
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