Black women are three times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women. Many of these deaths are preventable, and research indicates their causes are rooted in systemic inequities and implicit bias.

To build awareness around this issue and ultimately change the state of Black maternal health in the United States, PCI, a Global Communities Partner, is proud to sponsor a delegation of 17 staff members, service partners, and clients to attend the national Black Maternal Health Virtual Conference led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) on April 16-17.

“We recognize maternal mortality as a global crisis affecting Black women and birthing folks across the world, not just in the U.S., and we join other Black and African women leaders across the diaspora in the fight to end maternal mortality,” said Angela Doyinsola Aina, co-founding executive director of BMMA. “Black Maternal Health Week and Conference serve as an opportunity to, first, bring visibility to Black women leaders and scholars in maternal and reproductive health; raise awareness, inspire activism, and strengthen organizing for the Black Maternal Health movement.”

To date, discussions about Black maternal health have been carved into existing reproductive, maternal, and public health conferences where there is little space for meaningful dialogue and limited framing on health equity and reproductive justice. BMMA has created that space with the Black Maternal Health Conference.

“It is important to be in the presence of amazing Black researchers, medical providers, birth workers, and activists learning about what the issues are and how to advocate for oneself,” said Nyisha Green-Washington, a perinatal navigator and PCI’s Healthy Start program coordinator. “… Having a space to feel seen and respected, even if virtually, is healing and the world knows we need healing.”

To help eliminate disparities in perinatal outcomes and promote positive birth and parenting experiences in diverse Black communities in San Diego, PCI’s Healthy Start program provides support to families during pregnancy and up to 18 months after a baby’s birth. Services include midwifery and doula support, childbirth, breastfeeding and parenting education as well as direct assistance and referrals for mental health, housing, food, education, and jobs.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program’s team of perinatal navigators, doulas, and midwives has been able to safely deliver this critical support, serving a total of 272 families both virtually and in clients’ homes.

“Our participants have needed more of our support during this crisis because of all the uncertainty. They ask questions like, ‘What’s going to happen during my hospital stay?’ ‘Can I breastfeed if I have COVID-19?’ ‘My partner and I lost our jobs, so how can we pay rent?’ ‘Will my children get behind from distance learning?’ and so much more,” said Daniella Lesch, lead perinatal navigator.

According to Green-Washington, the Black Maternal Health Conference will provide a much-needed outlet for staff members and clients alike to not feel alone in the ongoing fight for equity in maternal health.

“I hope [participants] gain knowledge around who is doing the work and how to get involved, but most importantly, find a space where their stories are validated,” she said. “… They are not high risk, the system is the risk. I hope they see that there’s a network of people out there that care about this issue and feel empowered to bring their voices to this movement. The people closest to the problem have the solutions.”

*Lead image created by Black Mamas Matter Alliance.