Black Maternal Health Week is here! Black parents, expecting parents AND medical and holistic healthcare providers, should be sharing resources every day. And thanks to the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, we have an annual opportunity for swapping stories and tips that may help generations of Black parents. Black Maternal Health Week is a time to deepen the national conversation around Black maternal health and equip expecting Black mothers, and those family planning with empowering options when it’s time to have a baby.
So, what is a doula and what do they do? BlackLove.com spoke with the CEO & Founder of the National Black Doulas Association, Tracie Collins, to deliver doulas 101 directly to you!
BlackLove.com: Tracie, what is the National Black Doulas Association, and why did you create it?
Tracie Collins: I founded the NBDA because Black women have been dying up to 4-5 times the rate of our counterparts when it comes to childbirth or childbirth-related causes. We train Black doulas as well as connect Black doulas with Black birthing families to provide support and help lessen the Black maternal mortality rate.
BL.com: How has the NBDA grown over time?
TC: It started as an online directory where Black doulas can list their business or doula practice. We have members throughout the country, including Puerto Rico and a member in Germany. Now we offer five different certifiable trainings as well as professional business development, coaching, and mentorship opportunities. Also, we are launching a digital magazine this year and so much more.
BL.com: Why did you become a doula?
TC: 20 years ago, I trained as a doula, and it was my stepping stone to becoming a midwife. It allowed me to gain birth experience that further added to my value when I sought out my midwifery apprenticeship. However, after gaining all of the experience I needed to sit for my board exam as a CPM (Certified Practical Midwife), I decided the field wasn’t for me due to California laws. At the time, the laws did not make it easy for midwives to practice.
Being a Black woman in America, I didn’t want to jeopardize anything that could potentially take me away from my children. So, I utilized everything I learned as a midwife and brought it into the doula world. I was able to marry it successfully by supporting so many families with a holistic approach to western medicine. As a result, I was able to have several clients’ births unmedicated and with rapid deliveries.
BL.com: Can an expecting family work with a doula and a doctor or is using a doula only for people giving birth at home or a birth center?
TC: Yes. Absolutely! For everyone’s safety, it’s best to work with both no matter where you choose to birth.
BL.com: Can you help us understand why it’s important to have both?
TC: The doctor or midwife is there to handle the entire medical process, such as checking vital signs, cervical exams, listening to heart tones, especially if any complications should arise. They make sure the birthing parent and baby remain medically healthy throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.