Black women are more likely to die in childbirth than women of other races, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With this in mind, more Black women are choosing to hire doulas to assist them in the childbearing process. The movement is saving lives, ABC News reported.
The CDC reported the maternal mortality rate for Black women is 41.7 deaths per 100,000 live births– the highest for women of any racial group. The infant mortality rate for Black newborns is 11 per 1,000 live births– also the highest for any racial group, the Office of Minority Health reported.
As a result, more Black women are seeking doulas, trained professionals who support moms through the birthing experience and postpartum period, to improve their chances of having a healthy pregnancy and birthing process.
That is what Naomi, who asked Good Morning America only to use her first name, was looking for when she began exploring birthing options.
“I know the intensity of what’s happening can lead to a lot of complications,” Naomi said. “When you’re tapped out because you’re having contractions that take your breath away, you want someone who can step in and knows what to do and knows what you want.”
Naomi learned about doulas eight years ago while awaiting the birth of her sixth child. She was matched with a doula at no charge through Black Parent Initiative (BPI), an organization that matches Black women with Black doulas to improve the odds of maternal mortality.
Naomi, 37, who will deliver a daughter this month, said, “All those times I gave birth, I wish I would have had a doula.”
Linda Bryant-Daaka, manager of BPI’s doula program, says the program has grown every year since its founding in 2016. Interest has been its greatest since the coronavirus pandemic has shined a light on racial disparities in healthcare.
“What we’ve heard from women is that there was so much stress around the pandemic, and they had so many family members pass away, they now want to use these services,” said Bryant-Daaka. “And they want someone who has that shared, common background or lived experience as them.”
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The doula experience for Black women improves their chances of survival during childbirth. It helps mothers reduce postpartum complications that may arise and impact health outcomes for new moms and babies. These include blood clotting and hemorrhaging, according to the data.
While having a doula present won’t fix the underlying problems of systemic racism in the medical field, Black women are hopeful that they and their unborn babies will remain healthy during the pregnancy and birthing process.