Working to help Black mothers beat the odds in childbirth

PITTSBURGH — According to the CDC, Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes that white women and that number goes up with age.

“I was letting the nurse know I couldn’t feel my chest. They laughed it off and I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously at all until I couldn’t breathe,” said Winter Clay, director of clinical operations for Masters of Maternity.

Clay went on to have healthy children, but she said many Black mothers are not as lucky.

In Pennsylvania, maternal mortality is on the rise. From 2012 to 2016, there were nearly 11 pregnancy-related deaths for every 100,000 live births. For Black women in the state, that rate is more than double.

“It’s a conversation that’s tough to have. I figured we should create village-type care around all women but specifically women who are in need,” said chair of the UPMC OB/GYN Department, Dr. Sharee Livingston.

Livingston is behind a program that provides doulas during and after childbirth. It’s an option she said can provide a better outcome for expecting mothers.

“Doulas help to decrease postpartum depression, improve breastfeeding rates especially for Black and brown women, decrease C-section rates and shorten lengths of labor,” Livingston said.

Clay said the goal is help transform the way maternal care is accessed and administered.