SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Black women in the US are three times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than any other race – a fact that was recently highlighted by the death of thirty-two-year-old Olympic sprinter, Tori Bowie. She died from complications from pre-eclampsia, a high blood pressure disorder more common among black moms. A large percentage of women of color report their health concerns are routinely dismissed in the hospital setting. One hospital has created a landmark program to address those concerns.
One-year-old Trinity and twin sis, Nova, are soaking up the front row attention from mom and dad.
The first time these parents have been able to maintain a calm presence, thanks to the support they’ve received from the Just Birth Network.
Kenyatta Casimir says, “The girls came early, my girls came early, like six weeks early.”
Sauleiha Akangbe, Birth Equity Manager at Just Birth Network, Swedish Health Services says “The Just Birth Network, it stands for justice, unity, support, trust, birth network. It is an innovative program in which we created to support black and native birthing women.”
Services include advocacy, doula support, and childbirth education.
Sauleiha says, “Black women are three to four times more likely to die than their white counterparts.”
That’s why Sauleiha founded the Just Birth Network last year with Swedish Health Services. With 27 doulas on staff, so far, it’s been able to help over 200 women.
Natasha Blanchard, Doula, Just Birth Network says, “I decided to become a doula with Just Birth and basically connect with our community because hospitals can be very fearful for us.”
For instance, black women are at a 60 percent higher risk to develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.
Blanchard says, “Often times, we have to advocate for them to make sure that they are getting all the care that they need.”
The doulas don’t deliver the babies themselves, but are there every step of the way before, during, and after birth.
Akangbe says, “You have a trusted person who you can reach out to.”
The Just Birth Network tries to make the program accessible for all of its families. The program even reaches out to those on Medicaid to see if they need extra support. Typically, they won’t have to pay for the Just Birth services. The cost for a private doula is up to $3,000.
Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winters, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Joe Alexander-Short Videographer.
JUST BIRTH NETWORK: BREAKING RACIAL BARRIERS
BACKGROUND: In the United States, more and more women are dying from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The maternal death rate for pregnant Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women is about three times higher than it is for white people who are pregnant. And, for pregnant women who are 30 years old and older, it’s about four to five times higher than it is for white people who are pregnant. Maternal death is when a pregnant or birthing woman dies during pregnancy or up to 42 days after the end of pregnancy from health problems related to pregnancy. Pregnancy-related death is when a pregnant or birthing woman dies during pregnancy or within one year after the end of their pregnancy from health problems related to the pregnancy. These deaths can be caused by a health condition like heart-disease, preeclampsia, or treatment given during pregnancy.
MATERNAL MORTALITY ON THE RISE BUT PREVENTABLE: A report from the CDC counted 1,205 U.S. women who died of maternal causes in 2021, compared with 861 in 2020, and 754 in 2019. The increased risk of pregnancy complications that lead to maternal death range from women getting pregnant at older ages, to inequities in health care, to a rise in chronic health conditions. And most of these pregnancy-related deaths are thought to be preventable. It’s recommended that as soon as a woman knows she is pregnant, she should book an appointment with her doctor to receive the appropriate care. It is also recommended to have a doula, or woman without formal obstetric training, whose job is to provide guidance during labor. Doulas are a form of social support while being knowledgeable and can assist with advocacy. It’s also important for women to do their own research and advocate for themselves to get the support they need.
NEW STUDY FAVORS IN-HOSPITAL DELIVERY: A national study revealed in-hospital delivery-related maternal mortality rates improved 57 percent between 2008 and 2021. The decline in deaths during delivery hospitalization is the likely result of the impact of national and local strategies to improve the quality of care by hospitals during delivery-related hospitalizations. “We are committed to improving health outcomes before, during, and after pregnancy,” said ADM Rachel L. Levine, M.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Health. “These results underscore the need to better manage women’s health, including identifying the most significant risk factors and supporting access to improved care.” During the study period, mortality for American Indian women decreased 92 percent, Asian women decreased 73 percent, Black women decreased 76 percent, Hispanic women decreased 60 percent, Pacific Islander women decreased 79 percent and White women decreased 40 percent. This study is an important step toward better understanding the root causes of poor maternal health outcomes and where to target future efforts to improve such outcomes.
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