SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Nationally, nearly ten percent of babies are born prematurely. Unfortunately, this is more than just a statistic for the black community. This is becoming a death sentence.
Erika Hamilton is one of the millions of African American women who give birth all over the country and found out her journey to motherhood would not be easy when learning she was at a higher risk of delivering early than any other race.
Hamilton suffered a miscarriage after going to the doctors to find out there was no heartbeat from her child. Hamilton said, “I just wish people would tell the truth,” after learning the news. Hamilton was unaware of how this could have happened and did not feel prepared by her doctor. A feeling shared by many expecting black mothers.
According to the CDC, about one in ten babies are born prematurely in the United States. In addition, black women are twice as likely as white women to give birth prematurely and are three to four times more likely to die from birth complications.
There are women specially trained to help these mothers, called doulas. Doulas are an aid to support mothers before, during, and after the birthing process. At the Sankofa Healing Center in Syracuse, NY, doula’s provide mothers in need with diapers, baby clothes, and more to help after delivery.
Leeandra Torrance is a doula at Sankofa Healing Center and said their goal is to “give them a voice and educate, so they have that good birthing experience.”
Doulas are increasingly narrowing the gap of premature births in black women by supporting expectant mothers. Torrance said it is because they are “educating them on their rights and letting them know that they can say no to certain things because a lot of women believe that they can’t or don’t have a voice when they’re in the hospital.”
For those who don’t have a doula near, the CDC says to:
- Talk to your doctor if anything doesn’t feel right
- Document Medical visits
- Maintain Healthcare and Social Support Systems during and after pregnancy
Hamilton did have a good birthing experience with the help of a doula when she became pregnant again and gave birth to her daughter Imani in 2017. Doctors advised Hamilton she would not be able to deliver full-term, and she was at high risk. With the help of her doula by her side, she delivered natural and full term.