By Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
It has been just about two weeks since the amazing DONA international Summit 2018 wrapped up and the DONA International virtual conference is up and running for the 90-day viewing period. Many of our speakers talked about the state of maternal mortality globally and in the United States. The numbers were hard to hear but our guests spoke the truth! In the United States, two parents die every day from conditions associated with childbirth. And 164 other people have near misses. Every single day.
Two of the DONA International Summit 2018 keynote speakers, Neel Shah and Jennie Joseph, were just interviewed on CBS News Sunday Morning this past weekend, for an extensive piece on this topic. Maternal Mortality: An American Crisis was a 16-minute comprehensive dive on the state of birthing in the United States today. The stats mentioned in this piece were both shocking and heartbreaking! Kira Johnson’s personal story, as shared by her husband Charles Johnson, really demonstrated that there are more than just numbers behind these statistics. Real people are dying every day, leaving behind children to grow up without a parent. Sixty percent of these deaths are preventable. Families of color, particularly African-American families, suffer a disproportionately high number of deaths for a variety of reasons, including health inequities and racism that are discussed in the CBS piece.
Birth and postpartum doulas are on the front lines in supporting families during the vulnerable childbearing year. We listen, we observe, and we help families find their voices to ask for and receive care that is safe and appropriate. This is indeed important. We are helping one family at a time. There are many of us, but our reach is limited.
Here is something you can do right now to help focus attention on the issue of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States. With a few easy clicks, you can ask your Senators and Representatives to support H.R.1318 (Preventing Maternal Death Acts of 2017) and S.1112 (Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2017) bills moving through Congress that provide states with funds for the purpose of establishing formal Maternal Mortality Review Committees. By submitting annual reports to the CDC identifying and reviewing all pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths in the United States, these committees aim to eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes.
This link takes you to an absolutely simple, ready to send letter that goes directly to your congresspeople. Pop in your zip code and you are done. You can customize the letter as you see fit, or send as is. I even shared some of my experiences with parents who had near misses. It really takes less than a minute. I also shared on social media, inviting others to do the same. It is so easy, and there is simply no reason NOT to do it.
On a more long-term note, the third annual March for Moms date has been scheduled on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for Saturday, May 11, 2019. Mark your calendars and plan to join DONA International and other stakeholders gathering together to draw attention to the issues and to speak up about the state of maternity care in the United States.
Advocacy work is an important cornerstone of DONA International. Led by current Director of Advocacy Sarah Hodin, the Advocacy committee consists of five subcommittees including the Health Disparities and Inequities subcommittee, chaired Kelli Brien, and the Legislative Action subcommittee led by Christina Libby. Several of the subcommittees have volunteer openings and you are invited to connect and work with others who are committed to improving maternity care and parent and baby outcomes. Reach out now to get involved.
Please take a moment to contact your politicians! And let me know in our comments section below that you did! I would be so happy if there were a long list of doulas and others commenting below that they took 30 seconds to speak up for parents and families. Thank you.