YOUR HEALTH: Just Birth Network breaks racial barriers

A hospital has created a landmark program to address health concerns that are reportedly routinely dismissed.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 8:16 AM CST
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SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Black women in the U.S. 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 32-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 sister, Nova, are soaking up the front-row attention from mom and dad.

This is 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.

“The girls came early, my girls came early, like six weeks early,” said Kenyatta Casimir.

“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,” said Sauleiha Akangbe, Birth Equity Manager at Just Birth Network, Swedish Health Services.

Services include advocacy, doula support, and childbirth education.

“Black women are three to four times more likely to die than their white counterparts,” said Sauleiha.

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.

“I decided to become a doula with Just Birth and basically connect with our community because hospitals can be very fearful for us,” said Natasha Blanchard, a doula with Just Birth Network.

For instance, Black women are at a 60 percent higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.

“Oftentimes, we have to advocate for them to make sure that they are getting all the care that they need,” said Blanchard.

The doulas don’t deliver the babies themselves, but are there every step of the way before, during, and after birth.

“You have a trusted person who you can reach out to,” said Akangbe.

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.

RELATED: Volunteer community doula programs available; experts weigh on the role of a doula in pregnancy childbirth

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