By Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
The first ever Black Maternal Health Week begins today in the United States. Black parents and babies face significantly increased maternal mortality and morbidity compared to their white counterparts. The goal of Black Maternal Health Week as stated on the Black Mamas Matter Alliance’s (the sponsoring organization) website is to:
- Increase attention to the state of Black maternal health in the US, the root causes of poor maternal health outcomes, and community-driven policy, program, and care solutions;
- Amplify the voices of Black mamas, women, families, and stakeholders on this important issue;
- Serve as a national platform for Black women-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth justice, and reproductive justice, including African immigrant and Afro Latinx groups; and
- Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health via community conversations, events, and outreach.
As birth and postpartum doulas, we are uniquely positioned to support this movement by our very own actions. Here are five steps every doula can take to improve outcomes and increase awareness of how dangerous it is for families during the childbearing year.
Doula for a family of color. Birth doulas improve outcomes simply by being in the birth room supporting a family during labor and birth. Research shows that there are fewer requests for pain medications, fewer interventions, and fewer cesareans amongst other things. After birth, postpartum doulas support breastfeeding, offer help recognizing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, build confidence in the parents’ early parenting skills, create time for rest and recharge and support the entire family as they adapt to a newborn. Offer your birth or postpartum doula services to a Black family in your community who can benefit from all that a doula does. Doula trainers can create space and scholarship if needed for doulas of color to join an upcoming training.
Organize events in your community to raise awareness of Black families’ increased risk of death and complications during the childbearing year. Host a book club event and consider reading this book. Schedule a screening of “Death by Delivery” and access the film guide (icon on the top right will lead you there) to guide discussions. See if there is a local event already scheduled for your area on the Black Maternal Health Week website.
Understand the issues. Consider connecting with organizations in your community or on the national level who are working to improve outcomes and reduce inequities for Black families. See how they could use your help and skillset. Audit a course for pass/fail at a local college or university that focuses on the issues of race and health disparities for Black families. Sit in on a webinar. Choose one or all three sponsored by BMMA.
Wednesday, April 11th @ 12PM EST: Black Maternal Health Week Launch Webinar. Register for this webinar to kick-off the first national BMHW and talk about the issues and policies impacting the health and rights of Black Mamas.
Thursday, April 12th @ 12PM EST: “Best Practices in Black Mama Care Work” Webinar. Register for this webinar to discuss what Black women want and need around safe and respectful care.
Monday, April 16th @ 12PM EST: BMHW Webinar Highlighting Black/African Immigrant Women Advocacy in Maternity Care. Help BMMA continue the momentum built throughout Black Maternal Health Week by exploring the unique challenges facing Black/African immigrant and undocumented women, and what’s needed to ensure they can access quality and equitable care. Register here.
- Black Mamas Matter Alliance
- Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why
- Serena Williams on Motherhood, Marriage, and Making Her Comeback
- Health Disparities vs Health Inequities
- Who Are You Calling Vulnerable?
- If Equity is Fairness, What’s Fair?
- How Does Health Happen?
- Defining Health Equity
- Unnatural Causes: When the Bough Breaks
- Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Your Bridge to a Culture of Health
Advocate for Black families by contacting your local, state and federal representatives with a letter or phone call stating the importance of adequately funding social service and health programs that impact families of color and reduce disparities. You can find contact information from the President down to your local city or county reps here on this useful website. You can download a toolkit here that will help with talking points for your calls or letters. In that same toolkit are images and statements provided for your use on your favorite social media site.
April 11 – 17, 2018 is the first Black Maternal Health Week and a great time to step up as a doula and come together with your colleagues to support reducing inequities and improving outcomes for Black parents and babies. The struggle is real and needs energy and attention 52 weeks of the year, but today is a great day to start with any or all of the five steps above. Share what you are planning to do in support of Black Maternal Health Week in the comments below. And thank you! If you are looking for more ways to become involved, please contact our Advocacy Chair, Sara Hodin through our Advocacy Committee on the DONA website.