Black maternal health awareness is starting to receive recognition from policymakers. For decades, many Black women have suffered from improper maternal health care due to racism, bias, and overall lack of access. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues in comparison to white women. And because of these staggering statistics, a number of Black women have turned to doulas and midwives in order to have a smoother and safer pregnancy journey.
A doula is a trained professional who offers various types of support such as physical and emotional, to the mother before, during, and after pregnancy. A midwife is also a trained professional who helps the mother before, during, and after pregnancy, but they can also offer medical care.
The costs to have a doula can reportedly range from $500-$2000 and while some of those companies offer payment plans, it is still unaffordable to many women. But there is one city that is on a mission to do something about it. Last Wednesday, NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced the expansion of the Citywide Doula Initiative to offer free access to doulas for families in low-income areas and an expansion of the Midwifery Initiative.
In a statement from the NYC Mayor’s Office, Mayor Adams noted the racial biases and is working to present a solution. “The root causes of racial disparities in maternal health are real, so it’s time we do right by every mother and every baby, no matter the color of their skin or the language they speak,” he said. “Today, we are announcing a multifaceted initiative to help reduce the inequities that have allowed children and mothers to die at the exact time when we should be welcoming a life. By expanding and investing in both doulas and midwives, we are taking the steps necessary to begin to address the disparities in maternal deaths, life-threatening complications from childbirth, and infant mortality.”
The Citywide Doula Initiative will focus on 33 neighborhoods while the Midwifery Initiative will be available at all 38 public and private birthing facilities. Fifty people will be trained to be doulas in order to help over 500 families by the end of June.
Other important city officials spoke out in support of the initiatives including New York Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn who experienced the loss of her son due to a pregnancy-related cause. “For me, advancing Black maternal health is more than just a policy initiative, it's personal,” she said.
“The loss of my son Jonah in 2016 was a heartbreak that has never been healed. The cause was a common and preventable preterm labor condition. The Adams administration's doula and midwifery initiatives take a critical leap towards narrowing the racial and socioeconomic gaps that have long perpetuated a sense of fear and prevented new families from experiencing joy when they're expecting. I encourage all expecting parents in my district, and all 33 neighborhoods this program will pilot in, to sign up to access doula and midwifery care. The difference could mean life or death.”
In comparison to nationwide statistics, the mayor’s office reported that Black women in NYC are nine times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. Also, infants are three times as likely to die under the age of 1.
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