Atrium Health Doula Program Aims To Combat Maternal Health Disparities

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For many women pregnancy is a life changing experience, but carrying that ‘bundle of joy’ can come with stress and even complications. 

“If you look at black women in particular, there’s higher maternal mortality and morbidity,” Dr. Ngina Connors said. 

According to the CDC black women in the US are nearly three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications.

Research shows they’re also more likely to have their pain ignored or minimized and report mistreatment.

Dr. Ngina Connors, chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Atrium Health said they’re hoping a new doula program will play an  important role in addressing health disparities and reducing the impacts of racial bias on pregnant women of color. 

“Doulas are different in that they are unbiased, they are with you and they’re helping you go through one of the really important things that will ever happen to you in your life,” Connors said. 

The program will train people to become doulas — who can provide physical and emotional support, explain medical terms and advocate for women during labor and pregnancy. 

“They look at you as a whole person. like what is your family life like, what are things that you may need, what are other things outside of the pregnancy that may be causing stress for you and helping you to mitigate those things,” Connors said. 

Those doulas will then be connected with pregnant women of color in underserved communities.

“Right now in the US only about 10 percent of doulas are black and so we are being intentional about who we are recruiting into the program so that it reflects the patients that we’re serving,” Connors said. 

 Connor said the support of doulas can make a difference in helping to improve health outcomes for women during and after their pregnancy. 

“They’re looking at the whole woman and  that stress that can be relieved through that and also the advocacy that can happen through that can certainly impact the outcomes for our patients.”