According to data from 2013 to 2015, black women living in New York State are four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. Around 30 maternal deaths occur each year in New York State.
When the news broke, New York State vowed to tackle the problem.
Although it is not fully understood why black women are more likely to die during childbirth than white women, there are likely to be various different factors at play.
One study found black women were more likely to give birth at hospitals with a poor track record in maternal mortality.
New York State Turns To Doulas To Help Reduce Maternal Mortality Rates
The Governor of New York State recently announced a series of initiatives he hopes will reduce maternal mortality rates for black women.
As part of these initiatives, Medicaid will be expanded to provide doulas for women during pregnancy and childbirth. The exact details of the pilot program have not yet been finalised, but further details are expected to be released next month.
The pilot program won’t be a US first; Minnesota and Oregon already allow women access to doulas as part of their Medicaid cover.
Governor Cuomo is reported to have said, “Maternal mortality should not be a fear anyone in New York should have to face in the 21st century”.
Research published in the American Journal of Managed Care found having a doula reduced the c-section rate by 60%. A doula is a non-medical birth support who provides continuous care for a woman and her partner during the birth.
A doula can’t take the place of a medically trained professional, but will instead provide information and support to empower and aid women during pregnancy, birth and the days after the birth.
You might never have set eyes on your allocated midwife until you enter the birth suite, but you will have already established a relationship with your doula during the pregnancy.
You can find out more about what a doula does by reading BellyBelly’s article Why Pregnant Women Love Doulas.
A Cochrane review found continuous support during labour reduced the risk of medical intervention.
This means a reduced risk of an assisted birth. Women are less likely to opt for epidurals, and less likely to have a c-section.
Just as importantly, the review found women who had continuous birth support were also less likely to report a negative birth experience.
Many hospitals are under pressure, meaning staff are less likely to stay with one patient throughout the labour. A midwife might be looking after more than one woman at a time, meaning she is simply unable to offer continuous birth support.
A doula can fill that gap, allowing labouring couples to enjoy continuous support from a person they know and trust.
Doulas also offer pre and postnatal support, if desired. One study found access to a doula increased breastfeeding rates for low-income women and women of colour.
Currently, only about 6% of women are thought to hire a doula to support them during childbirth. According to one study, black women with public health insurance are twice as likely as privately insured white women to want a doula but not be able to have one.
The New York State initiative will combat this problem, and allow women with public health insurance to access doula care and enjoy the benefits that accompany it.
The Governor has also created a Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes to work alongside the Maternal Mortality Review Board and tackle this serious issue.
Other initiatives to tackle maternal mortality include improvements to the prenatal education programmes and reviewing hospital practices.
Medical interventions cost money and increasing c-section rates are forcing the cost of childbirth to rise. Having a doula present at the birth can reduce the risk of medical intervention. This not only allows for a better birth experience for the new parents, it also helps keep costs down, which is attractive to medical insurers.