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How Doulas Can Help Black Women Throughout Their Entire Pregnancy

Black maternal needs to be a priority throughout the whole pregnancy process.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), Black women are three times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than white women and 60 percent of those deaths are classified as preventable. The Black maternal health crisis came into focus in recent years, after media reports showed the disparities facing Black women during their pregnancies and postpartum.

The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) says Black babies are at significantly higher risk of being born preterm or low birth weight as a result of the pregnant person’s increased exposure to toxic stress from institutionalized racism. Black parents also have a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression and are less likely to receive needed care.

“It’s important to understand the systemic faults and failures and gaps that we have in this country, as it relates to maternal health, and our medical system,” said master doula Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow Foundation. She continued, “It’s also important to affirm and reaffirm and reclaim birth as sacred and birth as an event that is physiologic and natural and not an emergency event, but a natural and an empowering event, and a rite of passage.”

Supporting Black women

NICHQ reports that pregnant Black women face significant barriers, including feeling their providers aren’t listening to them, as well as judgment, bias, and racism. Many feel they are given little information and education during and after pregnancy, and that social supports aren’t in place.

Thomas says doulas can help birthing people, especially those who are Black and indigenous, break these barriers and navigate their entire pregnancy and postpartum journey.

“A doula is a non-clinical care provider that offers emotional support, physical support, education advocacy tools and partner support, if someone has a partner present,” she said.

Doulas can support birthing people and their partners during the whole reproductive continuum including fertility, pregnancy and birth, abortion and loss, bereavement, and menopause, as well as death and dying.

The Mama Glow Foundation recently partnered with beauty company Carol’s Daughter to launch “Love Delivered,” outreach programing to empower, support and show love to Black birthing people and babies.


A doula helps parents during the birth process, especially since it can be a stressful and new experience. Doulas can help people regain personal trust in providers and the healthcare system.

They also help Black women learn how to advocate for themselves. Thomas says a typical client-doula relationship is about friendship, trust, and support. Patients often describe it as a familial relationship.

“It’s like having your own personal concierge in some ways,” she said. “It really is having someone who’s trusted, who can provide not only information to you, but tools that you can call if you feel uncomfortable or need to bounce an idea around.”

For example, a patient managing an illness or disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, my need additional support during pregnancy. The doula helps ensure they get access to the best care possible.

Next steps

Thomas says we need to invest more in midwifery education. Allies can be supportive by donating to organizations and standing alongside people who are already doing the work.

It’s important to talk about Black maternal health too.

“I believe that seeing powerful stories and also sharing the importance of this work in a powerful and palatable way, will help us to feel more at ease when we are navigating pregnancy,” she said. “People should not be afraid for their lives when they’re pregnant.”

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