A new initiative at Swedish Hospital is hoping to address healthcare disparities for Black mothers.
Giving birth can be a magical experience, but for Black women, it can also trigger fear.
"There's so much trauma within the birthing experience,” said Sauleiha Akangbe, a certified birth doula and equity and community engagement lead with Swedish Doula Services.
In the U.S., Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Having a doula, having that support, having that advocacy as well as having a team around you that is willing to support you, understand you, and who relates to you, that can really help shift those, those numbers,” Akangbe said.
A doula is a trained, non-clinical health professional who supports mothers during delivery and after the baby arrives. Sauleiha Akangbe created the Black Birth Empowerment Initiative, also called BBEI, through the Swedish Doula Program.
Its goal is to uplift and advocate for Black mothers who have been historically impacted by systemic racism and unconscious biases embedded in healthcare.
"You already have a group of people who have learned from a medical system that does not support you, and that has done more harm to you than good,” Akangbe said.
The CDC says most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. Tackling the Black maternal health crisis will take a multi-faceted approach.
"...and so when people see you automatically their biases are going to flare, you need someone who's going to be there, not only as a protection but who's going to see you,” Akangbe said.
BBEI is for all birthing parents at Swedish Birth centers in Seattle, Issaquah, and Edmonds.