Reclaiming Your Power: Why Your Wellness Team Is So Important
Every pregnant person deserves to be surrounded by a team that cares for them and about them—doctors, midwives and nurses who approach all concerns, questions and appointments with respect and due diligence. Unfortunately, amidst a very real maternal health crisis, Black women in the US know that unbiased, quality care isn’t a given—and this truth can have dire outcomes. The startling fact is that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts.
This is why it’s critical for Black moms-to-be to vet their wellness teams. Tour your hospital, interview OBs and midwives and dig deep into their practices and approaches. Hire a doula to be your advocate and support you in the experience. Create a birth plan, know your rights and speak up when you feel you’re getting anything less than professional, inclusive and thorough care.
The Bump recently hosted a panel conversation about the importance of building a supportive wellness team. Our head of marketing, Jen Lee, was joined by Rachel Villanueva, MD, an ob-gyn and clinical assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine; Latham Thomas, a renowned doula and the founder of Mama Glow, a global maternal health and education platform and Lisa Price, the founder of Carol’s Daughter and Love Delivered, an initiative focused on raising awareness of the Black maternal health crisis.
Villanueva, Thomas and Price all agree that a positive birth experience starts with quality care. And that means finding a provider you trust—someone that makes you feel safe, empowered and heard. Easier said than done, of course, but you shouldn’t have to settle for anything less. “When you have a provider that you love, it’s incredible. It’s like being in a family. You have a team that really cares about you—all the providers are working really well together to ensure that you have the best birth,” says Thomas.
That said, understanding the hurdles you’ll face throughout the next nine+ months is key—as is knowing that your chosen provider acknowledges the frightening reality of being a Black pregnant person. “The fact that we do have to understand the biases that are inherent and embedded in our healthcare system is just a little microcosm of what our society is,” adds Villanueva. To that end, if your OB shrugs off your concerns, denies systemic prejudice or tells you there’s nothing to worry about, it might be time to move on.
Moreover, while your doctor serves as the clinical lead, they should be open to working as a collaborative member of your wellness team, and respect and welcome the role of a doula in the delivery room. “I was so empowered by the births that I attended where I went to medical school. There was a midwifery program, and they really allowed a lot of medical students to take part in births and be part of that experience. And it was really a little different than the experience of attending a birth where just the physicians were there,” says Villanueva. “I’ve had some of the labor and delivery nurses say that I’m kind of like a ‘doula doctor’ the way that I practice. And I take that as an honor because I think it’s really important. There’s so much that happens to have a healthy birth that we need everybody working together.”
In short, you’re the focus, you have a voice and your wellness team is there to help you have the best experience and outcome possible. Price sums it up: “You’re a miracle on two legs walking around. Don’t forget that. Every day that you wake up, you’re carrying this life inside of your body… And you are magical and powerful.” Take that wisdom with you into your next prenatal appointment. Pregnancy is not meant to be a solo act. You’re not in this alone. Having a team that really does care can make a world of difference.
About the experts:
Lisa Price is the founder of the brand Carol’s Daughter. She’s 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. In April 2021, Price launched Love Delivered, 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.
Latham Thomas is the founder of Mama Glow, a global maternal health and education platform serving birthing people along the childbearing continuum. Latham was recently appointed visiting professor of the practice of gender studies for the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University. Thomas is a partner at Love Delivered.
Rachel Villanueva, MD, FACOG, is an ob-gyn and clinical assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. As a women’s health expert and advocate for maternal health and reproductive justice, she recently completed her term as president of the National Medical Association, the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization representing African American physicians and their patiences. She earned her medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine.
For more conversations around Black maternal health, check out our Reclaiming Your Power interview with Hannah Bronfman, and a panel conversation about the importance of physical wellness in pregnancy. Visit The Bump’s Black Maternal Health Hub for more information, inspiration and support.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.