Pregnancy can be an anxious time for any mother. But in the United States, misperceptions about the Black mother disproportionately affect her birth experiences and outcomes. It’s a crisis that income, education, and access to insurance can’t shield her from—because it’s the result of embedded structural and systemic racism and bias.
Othering the Black mother leads to unrealistic expectations of what she can tolerate. From being overlooked by clinicians to having pain mismanaged or ignored, or having birth plans and preferences dismissed, Black mothers’ lived experiences reveal a gap between health care providers’ treatment of women of color and the support required to deliver the respectful maternal care every woman deserves.
Community care can pick up where clinicians leave off, surrounding Black mothers with the support to prepare for and anticipate their own pregnancy journey.
We recently sat down with moms and moms-to-be, as well as community care providers including doulas, to discuss their pregnancy and birthing experiences. Here are some of the things we heard:
Knowing how to make people feel heard and understood is a superpower—and that’s where community-care providers like doulas excel.
Community care returns us to our roots—the generations-old practice of women helping other women during pregnancy and childbirth. And it’s a relatively low-cost practice that’s research-proven to improve birth outcomes for mothers and their babies.
Evidence shows that community-based care can:
Community-based doulas are trained birth workers who provide non-clinical emotional, physical, and educational support before, during, and after birth. Particularly critical during labor and delivery, they serve as patient advocates while providing comfort and coaching. And the relationships many doulas establish with mothers enable them to provide ongoing care and support even through the “fourth trimester.”
A doula is like the grandmothers, aunties, sisters, and friends we trust—only she’s a certified expert in evidence-based support practices. Adding a doula to your family provides guidance before and during childbirth and in the following early weeks with a new baby.
Doulas have expertise across the full spectrum:
Physical Support. Offering hands-on help like breathing techniques and counter pressure, plus positioning ideas for comfort and labor progression
Emotional Support. Providing connection and nurturing to families to ease the emotional work of birth helps labor hormones perform best
Partner Support. Helping every birth partner—whether it’s a romantic partner, friend or family member
Advocacy. Bridging the gap between women and their HCPs, helping women find their voices and ask for the care they deserve
Your pregnancy and motherhood experience should belong to you. A doula’s care starts and ends with you as a priority.
The Wunderman Thompson Health4Equity Center of Excellence (COE) was established in 2020 to battle forms of health inequity rooted in cultural bias and mistrust. At the end of 2021, the Health4Equity COE was awarded funds from the WPP racial equity program to drive meaningful impact and societal progress against multiple health inequities over the subsequent three years. In our first year, the Health4Equity COE has prioritized three areas: COVID inequities in the BIPOC community, earlier prostate cancer screening in Black men, and Black maternal health.
Health4Equity has proudly partnered with multiple clients to develop action plans and multicultural communications and solutions to help advance progress toward health equity.