Baltimore Initiative Hopes Doulas Decrease Infant Mortality Rates

The infant mortality rate in African-Americans is twice the mortality rate of white newborns, and one city in Maryland is trying to change that. The infant mortality rate in African-Americans is twice the mortality rate of white newborns, and one city in Maryland is bringing the experience of doulas to expectant mothers, particularly those who are African- American, in an effort to combat these statistics.

Baltimore, Maryland, is tired of its babies dying. There is a huge discrepancy in the infant mortality rates between black and white babies, and the city has decided that something has to be done.

They’re implementing a new program that will bring the experience and training of doulas to expectant mothers, hoping to give them a better chance of survival. The initiative will also surely help improve the maternal mortality rate as well, which is higher in the U.S. than in any other developed country in the world.

Related: Peripartum CardioMyopathy: A Silent, But Preventable Killer

Stacey Tuck, the Health Director for Maternal and Child Health with the Baltimore City Health Department, says that motivation behind the doula initiative is to improve newborn health, particularly in an area where infant mortality rates in black newborns is shockingly high.

Other U.S. cities like New York, Chicago and Tampa have similar programs, as the infant mortality rates for African-American babies is more than twice as high as it is for white newborns. Cities like San Francisco, San Antonio and Denver are also said to be looking into programs that will give expectant and new mothers the care that doulas provide during pregnancy and after the baby is born, looking for better maternal outcomes in their patients.

Related: Doula Project Gives Hope To Incarcerated Mothers

While doulas are not medical providers like midwives, they are trained to help expecting mothers in pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum periods. They offer individual emotional support, and according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that consistent support is associated with better labor and delivery outcomes.

ACOG officially recognizes the benefits of doula-assisted births to be shorter labors, less need for pain medication administration and fewer surgical deliveries. Doula-assisted births are also associated with babies who have better birth weights and few complications.

Mothers who have doulas to assist them in birth are more likely to nurse their babies and less likely to have a need for cesarean deliveries. Doula-assisted births tend also to deliver babies who score higher on Apgar tests, according to a study done in 2013.

Doula-assisted births are not an unusual thing for African-American women, especially as there was a time not so long ago when hospitals wouldn’t even admit pregnant black women. Those women turned to doulas to assist with their home deliveries, but as laws changed, they moved into hospitals being promoted as the safest place to deliver children.

The City of Baltimore wants its doulas to be independent contractors who will also be able to help new mothers access support services for themselves and their babies after. Officials hope that the doulas add empowerment to new mothers, including accompanying them to doctors’ appointments, so that they have a trained advocate that will help teach them to advocate for themselves.

Many poorer expectant mothers can not afford a doula on their own, as their rates can go up to $5,000 a birth. The doulas who are trained for the Baltimore initiative will not receive money from the city, unlike in New York where doulas part of the program are paid. The Baltimore doulas being trained knew from the beginning of their training they’d most likely have patients that could not pay, and are doing the work as a service to their community.

Women helping other women for the best outcomes for both mama and baby. Just what we love!


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