April 11-17, 2022 is Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW). This year, the City of Columbia declared April 11 as Black Doula Day! Research shows that Black birthers have the worst outcomes among the pregnant and postpartum populations. To support Black birthers in our community and improve their outcomes and experiences, we are sharing information on doulas.
MATERNAL HEALTH OUTCOME DISPARITIES
Nationally, Black birthers are 3-4 times more likely to have adverse outcomes during pregnancy, labor/birth, and postpartum. However, in Missouri, that number increases to 4-5 times more likely. Black birthers face a variety of barriers to positive pregnancy and birthing experiences, which leads to these adverse outcomes. These barriers include lack of access to quality healthcare and facilities, system-level and provider racial biases, environmental stressors, lower rate of prenatal care utilization, and limited postpartum care.
There are ways that we can mitigate these barriers for Black birthers. Some options would include governmental or organizational policy change, improvement in the location and quantity of quality healthcare facilities, ensuring health services are patient centered, and easier access to and more affordable healthcare insurance. While these all require changes through large corporations or legislation, there is an option that has proven to help Black birthers on a more intimate level: having a doula by their side.
WHAT IS A DOULA AND HOW DO THEY IMPROVE BLACK BIRTHER OUTCOMES?
Will you please fill out a 1-minute survey about what you learned in this video?
As Jasmine stated a doula is a woman who serves. In our context, a doula is a certified professional who serves by providing education as well as physical and emotional support to a birther during the prenatal, labor/birth, and postpartum phases to help achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.
Environmental stressors are one of the many barriers Black birthers face to having healthy pregnancies. Studies have shown that the emotional and physical support a doula provides can help reduce the negative effects of these stressors on Black birthers and improve their overall experiences and outcomes. In addition, doulas have been shown to decrease the rate of C-sections and anxiety and depression as well as help communication between birthers and their healthcare providers, effectively reducing the harm caused by racial biases.
Here in Columbia, MO, we are lucky to have two great doula options: Jasmine Keith of NourishedMo LLC and the Mid-Missouri Black Doula Collective. Having multiple doulas to serve the community allows for birthers to select the appropriate doula for their desired birth story. Their contact information is below as well as some other helpful resources in deciding if you want a doula and how to pick the best doula for you!
The Mid-Missouri Black Doula Collective
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
At what point in the pregnancy should I contact a doula?
Anytime you feel you would like some additional support in your pregnancy, you should start to interview doulas. A great time to hire support would be during your second trimester or early third trimester.
I want a low-intervention birth, how can a doula assist with this?
A doula keeps your desires at the forefront of her services at all times. This includes both advocating for your birth plan and providing comfort measures to make your plan most accessible. The use of clinical interventions in the birth space often spirals into a hard to control chain of events, and it is a doula’s job to make sure you feel safe and supported in each moment of this process.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK IN YOUR DOULA INTERVIEW
- Will you support the way I want to give birth?
- How long do you stay after the birth?
- Do you have experience with breastfeeding instruction?
- Why did you become a doula?
- What is your fee schedule? What does your pricing include?