Celebrating World Dula Week

GFG 2024 Birth Justice Institute

Celebrating World Dula Week

One promising strategy for improving birth outcomes is the support of a doula.

Doulas are individuals trained to provide non-medical physical, emotional, and informational support to childbearing people and their families. Doula care has been associated with lower rates of Cesarean birth, preterm birth, low birthweight, and postpartum depression, as well as increased rates of breastfeeding and greater patient satisfaction with maternity care.

In addition to improved physical and mental health for both mother and child, such outcomes translate into financial savings, due to lower rates of surgical birth and neonatal intensive care.

NYC Doula Care Report 2023

Doulas are—or should be—a birthing person’s best friend.

Black Mothers Experience The Highest Mortality Rates In Birthing

In most social settings, comparison is the thief of joy. 

In the maternity ward of most hospitals in the United States, comparison is a shocking eye-opener to those not privy to the hard reality faced by black mothers. 

First up are infant mortality rates.

According to the New York Times, for every 100,000 births, a whopping 653 of the babies born to the poorest Black mothers die, while 350 babies who are born to poor white mothers die. 

Additionally, 173 of 100,000 babies born to the highest-earning white women will pass away while that number is 437 for the richest Black mothers. I.e., higher than the poorest white moms.

As for maternal mortality rates, the numbers are just as infuriating. 

Research from the CDC shows that Black mothers die at 3 to 4 times the rate of white women. 

So let’s dive deeper.

No Wealth Privilege For Pregnant Black Women

Not that it should play a role, but you might think wealthier black women would be in a better position to not suffer from such high mortality rates as their poorer white counterparts. 

The study shared by the NYT was the first of its kind to reveal so blatantly that race is the reason for such high disparities despite economic circumstances. 

Maya Rossin-Slatter, Standford alumni and the study’s author put it this way: “It suggests it’s much more structural.”

Namely, systemic racism in the healthcare system is killing our black women and their children.

Rates Remain Even When Rich Families Birth More Premature Babies

Even with a much higher occurrence of premature babies being born to rich white families, those babies will more likely see their first month and live beyond one year than healthy babies born to the less wealthy. 

And while the rate of high-risk pregnancies remains even across the board, poor mothers end up dying three times more often — despite undergoing care in the very same hospitals.

Health economist, Anna Aizer, of Brown University chalked some of it up to financial stress, saying:

“If you’re a higher-income mom who can take time off work, who doesn’t have to worry about paying rent, it’s not surprising you’ll be able to manage any health complications better.”

Of course, the fact that rich black mothers have nearly the same mortality rates as the poorest white mothers show that circumstances alone are simply not the answer. 

“It’s not race, it’s racism,” stated Tiffany L. Green, University of Wisconsin-Madison economist who focused on public health and obstetrics.

And the numbers tend to agree.

Less Black Doctors, More Cries For Help Ignored

A study published in March of 2022 further reveals the severe lack of prenatal and pregnancy information, support, and medical care provided for Black mothers. 

The only saving grace was the reduction in the mortality gap when Black doctors were the ones who delivered care to Black newborns. However, most hospitals largely employ a majority white physicians.

And even if this were a viable option, it would bypass the main issue we need to resolve, wherein white physicians disproportionately provide better care to their white patients.

Too often, black birthing mothers’ cries for help are ignored or taken less seriously. For some absurd reason, the long-running belief that Black people can handle more pain still prevails.

Even tennis megastar Serena Williams’ complaints were brushed away before doctors took them seriously. It turns out she had a pulmonary embolism post-delivery that could have killed her.

Why Doulas Are Needed Especially For Black Mothers 

World Doula Week is bringing light to all of this, but also highlighting how much doulas truly can and do make a difference. 

This goes for birthing persons as well as their partners. There’s so much that couples simply don’t know about when it comes to bringing life into this world. A doula will enlighten you and be there for you.

Whether you want a home birth, water birth, or hospital delivery, doulas put their own life events on hold to bring you the type of care no one else can.

The statistics show, for white mothers, the presence of doulas works mostly to improve their birthing experience. 

Meanwhile, for black mothers, the presence of a doula is largely a life-saving decision.

July 2022 study backed by research suggested that “doula care targeted toward Black women may help bridge the gap in health outcomes between white and Black women enrolled in Medicaid.” 

In the study, only 330 out of 340,010 expecting mothers used doula care, showing just how little mothers are privy to the advantages of these wonderful women. 

Global Foundation For Girls Founder Is A Proud Doula

Within the Global Foundation For Girls team, we have a few members who provide doula care to black mothers including our founder.

If you’re interested in learning more about World Doula Week, go to their main website here.

And if you’re on board with helping to stop gender-based violence, anti-black brutality, and violence against young women and children all over the world, consider donating to GFG here.