two report covers

Reports highlight community-based doulas’ role vs. maternal health crisis

One new report out of Washington, D.C. highlights that racism is the driving force of disparities in maternal mortality and doulas and midwives are key to the solution. Another from a Native women-led organization in New Mexico analyzes the living-wage pay scale of, and recommends a greater role for, community-based doulas. 

Taken together, both reports highlight the growing energy and consensus — one that can only be amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic — for greater use of community-based doulas, lactation counselors and other community health workers. 

Here are more details on the two new documents:

Expanding Access to Doula Care: Birth Equity and Economic Justice in New Mexico 

Report here

This March 2020 report is from the Yiya Vi Kagingdi Doula Project, the Indigenous Women’s Health & Reproductive Justice Program of Tewa Women United. (It should be noted the leaders of this project are also part of HealthConnect One’s Birth Equity Leadership Academy). Recommendations from the report include:

  1. State and Federal Legislation for Medicaid Reimbursement
  2. Managed Care Organization (MCO)-Led Reimbursement
  3. Expanding Access to Doula Training

“As a multicultural, multiracial organization founded and led by Native women in Northern New Mexico, we offer our perspective on Medicaid reimbursement for doula care as well as other opportunities to improve access across our state,” according to the organization. 

“Community-Based Doulas and Midwives: Key to Addressing the U.S. Maternal Health Crisis”

Video

Report here 

News release here

At the heart of the April 2020 Center for American Progress report are Interviews with midwives and doulas from across the field of birth equity including HealthConnect One interim executive director Jeretha McKinley. The interviews were conducted in February and March 2020 via phone, email, video conference, and in person. 

Recommendations from the report include: 

  • Fund existing community-based organizations providing doula and/or midwifery care.
  • Expand access to training and education to support growing a diverse maternity care workforce.
  • Improve integration in and support for doulas and midwives from the medical system.
  • Establish clear guidelines for government regulation of practice.
  • Provide access and the autonomy to choose a range of birth options.

“While the world grapples with a global health pandemic and hospitals across the country are being stretched to capacity, the role community-based doulas and midwives play in bridging health disparities and supporting pregnant people in their experiences giving birth is more crucial than ever,” said report author Nora Ellmann, research associate for women’s health and rights with the Women’s Initiative at CAP.

Congrats to HealthConnect One Birth Equity Leadership Academy leader Steph McCreary and to our own interim Executive Director Jeretha McKinley for raising their voices for birth equity with their representation in and development of these reports! 

Philanthropy Can Make a Difference in Helping Black and Brown Mothers Survive Childbirth

Read – Philanthropy Can Make a Difference in Helping Black and Brown Mothers Survive Childbirth

“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

by Toni Hill from the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project (NEMS) and Tikvah Wadley
from HealthConnect One