Maternity Group Care for and by Black People Is Improving Outcomes in Oakland

December 5, 2023

BElovedBIRTH Black Centering is resulting in healthier births and prompting state officials to look into expanding it to other public hospitals in California. 

While California’s maternal mortality rate has been lower than the rest of the country in the last decade, a landmark study of babies born in the state (PDF) between 2007 and 2016 found that childbirth is riskier for Black women, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The study, which examines birth, death and hospitalization records with income tax and demographic data, found that high-income Black mothers have the same risk of dying in the first year after giving birth as the poorest white mothers.

“There are many factors that may be driving this, but the primary factor behind all of that is racism in all of its forms, whether that’s structural or institutional or interpersonal racism,” said Kim Harley, a researcher at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “We see that impacting the whole life course of Black birthing people, and it’s shown in the outcomes that they have during pregnancy.”

BElovedBIRTH combines several strategies, such as having a doula provide nonmedical support during a birth, that has been shown to improve outcomes for Black mothers and their babies.

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