Black mothers and Black babies, who often literally struggle to remain alive in the U.S., are miracles. Educator and journalist Linda Villarossa’s recent investigative report “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis,” both beautifully and hauntingly details these challenges in illuminating ways.

For Black women,  structural, social and psychic trauma often shrouds reproductive justice. However, doulas, trained healthcare workers who provide supplementary physical, emotional and informational support to mothers, are increasingly contributing to Black women’s health when approaching, giving and recovering from birth.

As Villarossa noted, “A scientific examination of 26 studies of nearly 16,000 subjects first conducted in 2003 and updated last year by Cochrane, a nonprofit network of independent researchers, found that pregnant women who received the continuous support that doulas provide were 39 percent less likely to have C-sections.

The NY Times article explained that many women who experience continuous support often have healthier babies at birth, although academic scholarship on doulas remains largely anecdotal at this juncture. 

Through a careful and compassionate portrayal of Simone Landrum, a 23 year old Black woman and mother in New Orleans, Villarossa showed how traditional healthcare practitioners and policy-makers should consider and respond to the intersecting vulnerabilities of Black motherhood. Further, the article showed how an additional advocate’s emotional support and personalized understanding of a Black mother can mitigate tensions between doctors and patients. 

Too often, traditional healthcare experts’ lenses seem to position Black mothers as one continuous woman whose circumstances should be addressed but might not be owed individualized care. The article referenced an infuriating white medical resident who had not read Landrum’s chart or learned the patient’s history before offering contributions to her professional care plan. While most medical experts would not advocate their replacement with non-traditional healthcare support workers, the need for ongoing collaborations and creative solutions to save Black women remains. 

 

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