Just Birth Network: Breaking Racial Barriers

Black women in the US are three times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than any other race
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 12:03 PM EST
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SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Black women in the US 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 thirty-two-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 sis, Nova, are soaking up the front row attention from mom and dad.

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.

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

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

Services include advocacy, doula support, and childbirth education.

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

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.

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

For instance, black women are at a 60 percent higher risk to develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.

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

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

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

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.