In Westchester County, Black women are more likely to deliver babies with low birth weight, more likely to have premature births, and more likely to have their babies die. With those statistics in mind – and hoping to change them – the County has launched a pilot program with the Lower Hudson Valley Perinatal Network Children's Health and Research Foundation to offer doulas to qualifying Westchester County pregnant women.
County Executive George Latimer said: “I know that as a man I can never fully understand the birthing process – but as a husband, a father of a daughter and the grandfather to a young girl – I can tell you I am listening to you and I hear you. We can do better when it comes to these alarming statistics, and we will. You can count on my continued support of this most important issue. I commend the Office for Women, the Women’s Advisory Board and the many local organizations committed to this work who have advocated tirelessly on the issue of improving birth outcomes for Black women.”
Certified doulas have been shown to increase positive health outcomes, including reducing birth complications for the mother and the baby. The Program will cover labor/birth and postpartum doulas, offer Medicaid to eligible pregnant mothers.
Westchester County Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD said: “By providing doulas we aim to reduce cesarean rates, shorten labor, reduce requests for epidurals, reduce use of Pitocin and increase breastfeeding, while providing environments of respect, and active listening. We want our moms to feel safe and cared for. Research proves that when pregnant women’s voices are heard, positive birth outcomes are increased.”
In 2019, the nationwide maternal mortality rate for black women was 44 per 100,000 births – that is two and a half times the rate for white mothers (17.9), according to the CDC. In other words, black women are two and a half times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.
The pilot program will begin with $75,000 with options to expand.