According to the CDC, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women. Multiple factors contribute to these findings, such as quality of health care, underlying health conditions, structural racism in the medical industry, and implicit bias. Having a doula present during pregnancy and labor can produce better birth outcomes. LaRonda Terrell, a DMV-based doula, is doing the legwork by supporting expectant mothers, thus lowering Black maternal mortality rates.
What does a doula’s role in helping a laboring mother look like?
I do accompany the mother to her prenatal appointments. If she has any questions, maybe she doesn’t understand or she may need somebody to speak up in the doctor’s office with her. Doulas ensure that the mother is aware and abreast of what’s going on with her body and that she and her baby are calm. We are there for the pregnancy and then, of course, the labor and delivery. We have education on different positions to put the body in. If you’re healthy enough to move around and not high-risk, we can help you get in positions that’ll shift the baby down. Then there’s postpartum. Your body is again undergoing another change after giving birth to a baby, and your hormones go from 100 to 0 fast. Some women suffer from postpartum depression. So the doula is there to help.
Is there anything that the community can do to support lowering the maternal mortality rate?
I would say just advocacy and education for mothers and expect[ant] mothers. When she goes into her doctor’s office and says she’s having severe pain, they don’t brush her off like it is nothing. Or, at the end of her labor, she loses her baby because her doctor didn’t listen, or she loses her own life. We can’t change the medical field, but if we come in knowing all that we can learn and do all that we can do for ourselves, I think it will make it better to understand. Maybe this is not the doctor for me. Perhaps I need to find a doctor willing to listen so I can better help myself. We can become more educated to be proactive instead of reactive and ensure that our Black children are coming into this world healthy every single time.