NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — The number of women dying in childbirth in the state of Tennessee increases every year. But the number is even more alarming for women of color.
A local organization advocating for black expecting mothers inside and outside the delivery room.
The Homeland Heart Birth and Wellness Collective is a black doula organization with a mission to save the lives of black expecting mothers.
"The work that we do, we connect directly with the hospitals and so we have a different type of connection to be able to really serve in a different kind capacity and help; again offer evidence base, non-judgmental assistance in the labor and delivery process," said Kristin Mejia-Greene, doula and founder of Homeland Heart Birth and Wellness Collective.
The CDC says Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
Recent data from the Maternal Mortality Rate in Tennessee says during 2017 and 2018, 46 Black women in the state died while pregnant or within one year of pregnancy.
"I was kind of inspired to find a way to increase the numbers of Black doulas in the city so that we could increase representation and decrease number of women and children that we’re seeing die," said Mejia-Greene.
Sixty-three percent of those deaths were determined to be pregnancy-related according to the state.
They're not doctors or midwives, but doulas say they're just as important to some pregnant women who feel voiceless.
From pregnancy to birth to postpartum these women are offering education and information to and for Black moms-to-be.
These doulas help expecting mothers with blood pressure control, diet and breastfeeding.
"We help women learn to advocate for themselves during the pregnancy journey and in the labor and delivery room."
In order for these doulas to do what they do, they rely solely on community and private grant donations.
"We are 100% community and private grant funded because we have continuously applied for state funding that we are continuously denied for; because it is my understanding that we do not assist a wide enough demographic," said Mejia-Greene.
Homeland Heart Birth and Wellness Collective also work with Metro Health Department's Strong Babies program.
The efforts there are focused on the seven primary zip codes within Metro Nashville that have the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the county. Through health coaching, group prenatal and pediatric care, we’re out to transform sad statistics into happy stories of strong babies.