“When we started our work supporting mothers to assure they had healthy births, we were often asked, What’s a doula? Now most people know a doula is a trained professional who provides extended, intensive peer-to-peer support to mothers and families throughout pregnancy, during labor and birth, and into the early postpartum period.
“Even with this greater understanding, we are still a long way from achieving equity in making sure all women have access to care. It is shameful that the United States has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality of any developed country. These appalling statistics are due in part to the disproportionate number of women of color, particularly black women, who experience poor maternal health outcomes.
“To improve these outcomes, we need greater investments in maternal and child health from philanthropy and the government. Policy makers, public-health officials, and philanthropists need to understand that for our nation as a whole to be healthy and to thrive, we need to ensure that every baby, mother, and family has access to support for healthy pregnancies, births, and childhood development.
“Every day, we hear stories of black and Latina mothers and babies who die or experience near-fatal complications during childbirth. More often than not, these mothers tell us they experience blatant disrespect and disregard from medical staff. To add to the health detriments, they are typically discouraged from breastfeeding their children, even though breastfeeding has been shown to boost infants’ immune systems, protect them against allergies, and provide critical skin-to-skin contact.
“Increasingly, as public figures like Serena Williams and Beyoncé have spoken out about their own harrowing experiences with pregnancy and childbirth, more people have become aware of the diminished maternal-health outcomes mothers of color are more likely to experience.
“Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. And black babies are more than twice as likely to die during their first year of life than white babies . . . ”
Published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, April 2019