Why Access to Doulas Is So Important for Black Birthing People
Childbirth can be a miraculous, empowering experience, but with its unknowns and potential risks, it can also be a nerve-racking prospect for moms-to-be—a truth that’s all the more somber for Black mothers due to the Black maternal health crisis in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. It’s an unacceptable reality that Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, and Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow, are working hard to change.
In 2021, the two women joined forces to establish Love Delivered, an initiative aimed at battling the Black maternal health crisis through advocacy and access to birth doulas for Black birthing people and their families. Doulas educate, support and advocate for you throughout the childbirth process and are a proven way to improve health outcomes and lower the risk for you and baby. Of course, their services come with a price tag—but it’s a barrier that Love Delivered is striving to reduce. We caught up with Price and Thomas to chat about the importance of doula support and how they’re helping to make doula services more accessible for all Black birthing people.
The Bump: What was the impetus for launching Love Delivered, and what are you two hoping to achieve through this partnership?
Lisa Price: I had been looking to be of service in the space of Black maternal health for about two to three years, and in 2020 during the pandemic and quarantine, Latham and I had a series of conversations over audio texts. …I found out about her launching Mama Glow as a not-for-profit, and she learned of my and my team’s desire to partner with a not-for-profit in this space. We met, we walked around Brooklyn in a socially distant and safe way, and that was the planting of the Love Delivered seed. By April 2021, we had given birth to our baby.
Love Delivered is an initiative focused on raising awareness of the Black maternal health crisis in the United States and the importance of advocates and doulas at the times when Black birthing people and babies are most vulnerable—before, during and after birth.
Through Love Delivered, there is money available and money being raised to assist families in having a doula present at their birth, as well as scholarships for those who wish to become certified doulas. We also continue to raise awareness and have conversations at events, expos, on the radio and through IG Lives and podcasts.
TB: What are the benefits of working with a doula?
Latham Thomas: A doula is a person that serves as a constant presence of support for an individual at a major life transition. They’re a birth worker who provides education and emotional and psychological support, and advocates for an expectant family along the birth continuum. A doula helps mentally and emotionally prepare a birthing person for birth and is there to not only offer handholding through the experience but to make sure that the birthing person is getting the care, protection and dignity they deserve during the birth itself. Doulas can also offer postpartum support while the birthing person heals after labor and transitions into parenthood.
TB: Why is access to doula services particularly important for Black birthing people?
LT: Maternal health is on the federal agenda. In addition to demanding systemic change that addresses the Black maternal health crisis, for us to truly make a difference, we need to empower birthing people along the childbearing continuum with resources, guidance and advocacy tools to support their birth village and the larger community. Birth is meant to be a joyful and transcendent experience, and we have the opportunity to work together to restore safety and strive towards equity in birth by ensuring that every Black birthing person has access to a doula that can honor their needs and preferences.
We know that stats show Black women are three times more likely than white women to die during childbirth or due to childbirth-related causes. How are we going to work to make it safe for Black women to give birth? We need to store faith in our bodies and in our community birth service leaders like midwives and doulas. We need to address the implicit bias and racist ideology in clinical settings. We need restorative justice, because there is deep mistrust of the medical system and its impact on our community. We need to create a culture of safety. Because Black people are statistically more likely to experience poor birth outcomes as a result of systemic factors, including racism, we need to ensure that there are social supports in place to help navigate this very important time in our lives. Doulas prioritize the needs of their clients and their voices.
TB: How is Love Delivered broadening access through your Doula Grants program?
LT: This grant is accessible to Black mothers and birthing people who are pregnant or recently postpartum, and covers birth or postpartum doula support. Applications are currently being considered for eligible candidates located in the following cities: New York City (metro area), Washington D.C., Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles. Stay tuned for other major cities to follow. If you or a loved one is in need of doula support, you can apply by filling out the support inquiry form here.
TB: What can people expect from working with a Mama Glow-trained doula?
LT: Mama Glow-trained doulas provide trauma-informed care and respectful care to their clients. Mama Glow aligns with the understanding that the role of the labor doula is one of professional support that blends the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual care of a mother and birthing person along the childbearing continuum. …Doulas are for everyone, and at Mama Glow we seek to democratize doula work making doulas accessible to folks everywhere. Doulas provide the following to support the birth process:
- Provide non-judgmental support for the expectant mother and family during, before and after her birth.
- Provide non-medical support, deferring any medical or clinical matters to the doctor or midwife.
- Provide warm companionship and create trust with the mother and family during leading up to and during the birth process.
- Provide guidance and educational tools to help the mother and family make informed choices to lead to the vision and preparation of their desired birth.
- Practice deep listening and allow the mother or birthing person to fully express their needs and desires.
- Create a safe space.
- Serve as a fierce advocate for all birth clients.
- Understand the birth disparities in communities of color and advocate for underserved and at-risk clients.
- Provide a toolkit of comfort measures to help assist the birth process.
- Educate and encourage the partner (if there is one) to participate at their level of comfort.
- Promote breastfeeding/chestfeeding and educational tools to help with breastfeeding success.
- Make sure that breastfeeding is established within an hour postpartum.
- Prepare the mother or birthing person for postpartum care and recovery.
TB: What message do you have for Black families who are preparing for birth?
LP: It’s important to ask questions of your healthcare providers. If you’re confused, if something feels off, etc., speak up and ask. It’s also good to get second opinions—it’s often the best way to know you’ve made the correct choice. Do research online before you go in for appointments and consultations so you know what you want to ask, and also know what others are saying about the place or practitioner you’ll be visiting.
While it’s a somber, sad and scary topic to dig into the issues of the Black maternal health crisis, this is still your birth story, your miracle and your baby. Read, prepare and ask all the questions. Walk in knowing that this is your story and own it. Be a support to one another.
About Lisa Price:
Lisa Price is the founder of Carol’s Daughter, a beauty, cosmetics and personal care brand established in 1993. During the Obama administration, Price was appointed to the National Women’s Business Council, an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the president, Congress and the US Small Business Administration, on economic issues that face female business owners. Price was featured in the film “She Did That” (2019) and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Black MBA Association’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2000), the Working Woman Magazine’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Award (2001) and a Cosmetic Executive Women Achiever Award (2010). She is also the author of Success Never Smelled So Sweet, a memoir that chronicles her transformation from a young Black woman deep in debt to president of a paradigm-changing business. Price lives with her husband and three children in Brooklyn, New York. You can follow her on Instagram at @IAmLisaPrice.
About Latham Thomas:
Named one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, Latham Thomas is the founder of Mama Glow, a global maternal health and education platform serving birthing people along the childbearing continuum. Mama Glow supports birthing families during the fertility period, pregnancy, birth as well as during postpartum offering hand-holding through their bespoke doula services. The Mama Glow Doula Homeschool professional training program provides education and empowers birth workers around the world through workforce development. Thomas is a fierce advocate for birth equity and works to bridge policy gaps in maternal health. She is also a co-founder of the Mama Glow Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit committed to advancing reproductive justice and birth equity through education, advocacy and the arts. Cultivating her wellness practice over nearly a decade, Thomas has served as a doula for clients such as Alicia Keys, Anne Hathaway, Ashley Graham, DJ Khaled, Rebecca Minkoff, Tamera Mowry, and more. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Vogue, Fast Company, Wall Street Journal Magazine, Forbes, SELF, Essence and more. Thomas is a graduate of Columbia University and author of two best-selling books: Own Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living And Crowning The Queen Within and Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy. You can follow her on Instagram at @GlowMaven.
About Love Delivered:
Love Delivered is the Black maternal health initiative by Carol’s Daughter and its founder, Lisa Price, in partnership with the Mama Glow Foundation and its founder, Latham Thomas. It was created to empower, support and equip Black women and birthing people and the greater community to advocate for their health and wellness by providing expanded access to doula services, trainings for doulas and resources for families, birth workers, partners and allies to be well-informed in supporting positive birthing experience.