Prisma Health launching doula program for Black mothers, aiming to alleviate health disparities

Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 10:47 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Thanks to a $125,000 grant from the TD Charitable Foundation, Prisma Health is developing a new program to improve maternal and birth outcomes for Black mothers. The program will pair mothers with doulas who will help encourage, advocate and provide comfort.

The program leader told FOX Carolina this is an all-new effort to alleviate maternal health disparities for Black women. While doula services have been used with the same goal for years, doula care funded by Prisma Health is a big step. One, they say, will serve up to 100 mothers this year.

“From the moment that I went into the hospital, Amber was there. Like when things got crazy, she was my voice” said Marqulia Gowens, a mother of three, and BirthMatters client.

“I had two children previously, but I didn’t have help with them. I had them, you know, on my own” she said.

When her third pregnancy came along, Gowens was introduced to doula care through BirthMatters. A non-profit in Spartanburg that provides free doula care to mothers under the age of 25. Gowens was paired with then-community doula, Amber Pendergraph-Leak.

“A lot of people look at women when they’re expecting, like you should know all things baby, all things pregnancy. Well, I don’t look at a man and assume he can fix a car. You know, so doulas are the guide” said Pendergraph-Leak.

Now the executive director of BirthMatters, Pendergraph-Leak found her passion for doula care 13 years ago. Doulas work with mothers before birth, during and immediately after pregnancy. Teaching them everything from self-care to breastfeeding and advocating for their own health. For Gowens, who experienced an emergency C-section—her doula was a comfort.

“I had someone there with me to, you know, reassure me that everything was gonna be okay” said Gowers.

Prisma Health is hoping to bring that same comfort to more Black mothers.

“Black women are three to four times more likely to die from childbirth and not have the most ideal outcomes” said Rashana Keller, the Doula program lead with Prisma Health.

Studies show that’s caused by many factors, including racial disparities, stress, and higher rates of prenatal depression.

“It doesn’t matter if they have insurance. It doesn’t matter if they have money or not. There’s still a gap there in the health system that we need to work to improve,” said Keller.

Doula care has been linked with fewer complications, greater success with breastfeeding and more positive maternal outcomes. Which is the hope for this new program.

“I feel like all women need doulas, with emphasis on the Black and Brown women,” said Pendergraph-Leak.

Prisma’s program is expected to launch by late March or early April. Any Black women receiving prenatal care through Prisma Health in the upstate or the midlands will be eligible to apply.