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Melanie Patrick, the co-owner of Emerald Doulas, says her team specializes in efforts to reduce black maternal and infant mortality rates.(Facebook/Emerald Doulas)

Maternal mortality

Black women are hiring doulas to address racial bias from doctors during childbirth

By WITW Staff on March 1, 2019

As maternal death rates continue to rise in the U.S., black women have found themselves particularly vulnerable to complications — and to ill-treatment from doctors who activists say are more likely to ignore or be indifferent to their pain in their delivery room. To respond to this crisis, a growing wave of black women have begun turning to doulas — birth coaches who provide expecting mothers with support before, during, and after childbirth.

Ayana Moore, a 43-year-old scientist with a PhD in physiology in biophysics, said that her doctor refused to listen when she said she could feel the doctor cutting into her during a Caesarean section.

“I could feel her cutting across and it got to the middle, I just started screaming,” she recalled. The doctor refused to stop until finally one of the nurse’s shouted in alarm to stop her. She and her baby survived the procedure, she said, but she was left so traumatized by the experience that she opted to hire Melanie Patrick, a local doula from her home city of Durham, N.C., for the birth of her second child. Patrick, the co-owner of Emerald Doulas, says her team specializes in efforts to reduce black maternal and infant mortality rates. To do so, she said, her doulas — most of whom are white — are trained to watch for potential racial disparities between women and their medical providers.

“I have doulas come back to me after a birth and say, ‘This provider used the phrase these people in front of her or to her.’ Like, ‘Oh these people, the way they give birth is so dramatic,’” Patrick told The Washington Post. “They wouldn’t say that in front of me.”

Another client of Patrick’s, 34-year-old Joy Long-Vidal, said that her family had a long history of birth complications — including her grandmother, who died from a hemorrhage during childbirth. She now encourages other black women to seek out the services of doulas to ensure that doctors don’t ignore them when it matters most.

“I believe that was due to her being a woman living in Eastern North Carolina, dealing with things like poverty and racism and not having the resources. She didn’t get the medical treatment and care in time,” said Long-Vidal. “I just wish she had the support that she needed and deserved.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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