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Health, Science & Environment

Doulas Growing In Demand To Save Black Moms And Babies

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Ashauna Mathews, 24, never met her mother. She died three weeks after giving birth to her first child. That is why Mathews works as a doula to support pregnant women before and after childbirth.

“She died from complications from birth,” Mathews, trained and certified by the National Black Doulas Association, said. “She never left the hospital. By the time they figured out it was the pulmonary embolism it was too late because the fluid had filled her lungs and gotten into her bloodstream.”

Black women are two to three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth than other women in the U.S. Black infants die at a rate nearly three times more than white babies in Ohio.

The reason why that occurs is unclear although systemic racism in society and in healthcare could be a major factor. Pregnancy and birth problems among Black women and their babies can occur among all socio-economic groups.

To help decrease the number of Black babies and Black moms who die, more Black women are becoming doulas to help pregnant women before and after giving birth. A doula is a non-medical professional who provides physical, emotional and informational support to a pregnant woman. The care can start early in the pregnancy and continue several weeks after the birth of a child.

“They’ll come and talk about nutrition,” Mathews said. “They’ll talk about what they need to do as physical movement, herbs, their birth plan, all of those types of things.”

A bill introduced this week in the Ohio House would promote the use of doulas in childbirth. It would create an advisory group to work with the board of nursing and approve programs that certify doulas. The bill would also provide funding for doulas through a Medicaid pilot program.

“Black women need the support to be able to know that even if they don’t go into these phases in which they’re not receiving care or being listened to, that they have the support of a Black doula to provide that care and answer those questions for them,” Mathews said.