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Health Spotlight | Saving Black babies & their moms

Doula Ste’keira Shepperson. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It should be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, but for some, it can be one of the most life-threatening.

Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the US, almost three times the rate for white women. And according to the CDC, Black babies are more likely to die and also be more likely to be born premature.

That’s why some expecting Black moms are now turning to Black doulas to help ensure their own safety, and the safety of their unborn child.

Healthy now, but before giving birth to little Asa, Jordyne Blaise was worried – she had seen the headlines.

“Quite frankly, I was scared,” Asa’s mom Jordyne said. “I also was pregnant at an advanced maternal age, so I had just turned 36.”

Doula Ste’keira Shepperson believes systemic racism in the medical field is partially to blame. That’s why she created Triangle Doulas of Color.

“Essentially what it boils down to is having a doula that’s from the same community or cultural background as you,” Ste’keria said.

Ste’keria believes doulas are often misunderstood.

“One big myth about doulas would be that doulas are only for a natural unmedicated birth because doulas can support any type of birth,” Ste’Keria said. “A lot of people get confused about doulas and midwives, and so that is a big misconception that we do the same thing. A doula is a non-medical support person, whereas a midwife is clinical support.”

Jordyne believes Ste’keria was instrumental in helping her during delivery. She says, “We had got toward the end of labor and Asa was taking a while to move down the birth canal. And Ste’keria looked at me and said, “Okay, are you okay if we work on some positions to move her down?” And I said, ‘Yes, I’m willing.’”

By the time the doctor returned, they were able to help baby Asa move into the correct position — and Jordyne was able to have a natural, safe birth.

Ste’keria’s team of doulas have helped to deliver more than 300 babies since 2018 and can support moms through every aspect of having a child. From before birth, through labor and after going home. Hiring a doula can cost from a thousand to two thousand dollars. And although it’s not usually covered by insurance, there are some Medicaid plans that are beginning to cover the costs.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.