Women's Health

Elaine Welteroth Recalls The ‘Humbling’ Hospital Experience That Sparked Her Maternal Advocacy

Elaine Welteroth is shedding light on the traumatic doctor’s experience that pushed her to advocate for expecting mothers of color.

In an interview with PEOPLE, the former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue gave a transparent recount of her experience navigating the medical system as a first-time mom.

“I think pregnancy is the most vulnerable time for any woman,” Welteroth said. “I came into childbirth and pregnancy really naive. I was kind of shocked by how little I knew about birth and navigating the medical system.”

She adds, “I thought, I've done hard things in my life. How hard could it be to have a baby? You find a doctor, you go to the hospital, you get the epidural, you have the baby.”

Upon relocating to Los Angeles with her husband, Jonathan Singletary, Welteroth was met with “humbling” encounters with medical professionals while in search of a doctor.

She recalls one occasion with a doctor who cut her off during questioning, enforcing a limit on inquiries per visit. “I had one doctor literally stand up in the middle of a question I was asking, and cut me off and tell me that I exceeded their two to three question max per visit,” she says. “And she walked out on me, and this was the eighth doctor I’d met with.”

“I was asking very straightforward questions like, what's your intervention rate? What's your C-section rate? These are questions every birthing person should be asking of their care provider. I was asking, could I eat or drink water during labor.”

Shockingly, “The doctor literally laughed at me and said, ‘What do you think this is? You can't just walk into a hospital, pop a squat, and have a baby,’ and dismissively walked out of the room.”

Welerorth’s is just one of the many examples of Black women’s growing plea for support and advocacy during pregnancy and childbirth.

According to a 2021 study by the CDC, “the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White women.” The NLM also reports that “Black women in the United States (U.S.) disproportionately experience adverse pregnancy outcomes, including maternal mortality, compared to women of other racial and ethnic groups.”

To combat this disparity, Welteroth has launched the BirthFund initiative to help provide midwifery care and support for families and address the alarming maternal mortality rates in the United States, particularly among Black women.

Welteroth’s dream team of “founding funders” include Savannah James, Kelly Rowland, Serena Williams, Ayesha Curry, and more.

“The beauty of this initiative is that it really does meet people where they're at. It’s a grassroots fundraising effort,” she says. “These are women and privileged folks who understand how broken this system is because of their own personal experiences, and we all come together and agree that we need a change.”

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Featured image by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images for The 2024 MAKERS Conference




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