The United States ranks at the bottom of the top 10 industrialized countries in the world for maternal mortality and 55th globally. For Non-White Hispanic birthing people, the risk of death is 2-3 times that of white people. For Black birthing people, the already abysmal rate gets worse. Black birthing people are 3-4 times more likely to die of maternal-related causes in the first year after pregnancy. In New York City, where I live, it skyrockets to 12 times.
When I learned about these statistics years ago, I was surprised and then outraged, realizing that I fell into a higher risk category solely based on race alone. It spurred me to study more about pregnancy, birth, and birthing while Black in the United States.
Since becoming a doula many years ago, I have had the pleasure to meet some incredible women actively working to improve birth and postpartum support for Black birthing people. These women are making strides to reduce maternal mortality rates and making noise to bring more awareness to the situation.
Kimberly Seals Allers
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Kimberly is a journalist, author, nationally recognized media commentator, consultant, advocate for breastfeeding and infant health, and founder of the Irth App, like Yelp, but specifically for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Kimberly is a mother of two, using her own birthing experience as a fulcrum to advocate for change within the birth system. She works endlessly to bring awareness and change to the experience of Black birthing people.
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At the start of my doula journey, I met Rachel and was instantly drawn to her passion and magnetic energy. Rachel is a fitness trainer, doula, actor, mother, and founder of the nonprofit Birth Queen. Birth Queen’s initiative is to raise funds for education for Black midwives, doulas, and lactation consultants to empower Black families. Rachel works tirelessly to speak up and bring awareness to the cause of Black maternal health. Birth Queen is new but making great strides to bring more attention to the space.
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Latham is a doula, yoga teacher, and founder of Mama Glow. Her book, Mama Glow, was one of the first (and my favorite) books to read about pregnancy. Latham has been in the birth space since giving birth to her son in 2003. She partnered with Carol’s Daughter in founding Love Delivered to educate, fund, and provide doulas for Black birthing families. Latham also trains doulas in NYC and virtually under her Mama Glow umbrella of services.
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Jennie is a midwife, world-respected authority on women’s health, and the founder and president of Commonsense Childbirth. When she isn’t busy advocating for systemic reform, she oversees a Florida licensed midwifery school, which she owns in conjunction with her birth center and maternity medical home. Jennie is passionate about supporting families and providing a better way to educate birthing people to reduce trauma.
These 4 incredible women are just a few of those who are actively advocating, fundraising and bringing awareness to the cause of Black maternal health. By supporting these women, and others like them, we can reduce the national maternal mortality and morbidity rate. We all deserve to have safe, healthy pregnancies and postpartum periods.