New Moms celebrates Black Maternal Health Week 2021

This Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17 2021), New Moms and our candle-making social enterprise, Bright Endeavors, are excited to partner with Black Mamas Matter Alliance to spread awareness on Black maternal health and how New Moms directly works to help improve the health of the mothers in our programs, ~75% of which identify as African-American. Check out all the statistics and research we shared over the past week below, and thank you for supporting New Moms as we partner with young moms to meet their health and well-being goals! You can also support young moms in our programs by purchasing essentials from our special Black Maternal Health Amazon Registry. All items are shipped directly to our office to be distributed to families. 

What is Black Mamas Matter Alliance? From their website: The Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) is a national network of black women-led organizations and multi-disciplinary professionals who work to ensure that all Black Mamas have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy. BMMA honors the work and historical contributions of black women’s leadership within their communities and values the need to amplify this work on a national scale. For this reason, BMMA does not have chapters. The alliance is composed of existing organizations and individuals whose work is deeply rooted in reproductive justice, birth justice, and the human rights framework.

What is Black Maternal Health Week? From BMMA’s website: The fourth annual national Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) campaign, founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, will be a week of awareness, activism, and community building intended to:

  • Deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the US;
  • Amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions;
  • Center the voices of Black Mamas, women, families, and stakeholders;
  • Provide a national platform for Black-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth and reproductive justice; and
  • Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health.

Black Maternal Health Week takes place every year from April 11 –17. The month of April is recognized in the United States as National Minority Health Month – a month-long initiative to advance health equity across the country on behalf of all racial and ethnic minorities. Additionally, we are joining dozens of global organizations who are fighting to end maternal mortality globally in advocating that the United Nations recognize April 11th as the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights.

The campaign and activities for Black Maternal Health Week serve to amplify the voices of Black mamas and center the values and traditions of the reproductive and birth justice movements.

DAY 1:

On Day 1 of Black Maternal Health Week, we discussed Black mothers’ mental health.

DID YOU KNOW? Black mothers are more likely to suffer from PMADs (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders) like postpartum depression, in silence, and without clinical help. (Source Archives of Women’s Health)

At New Moms, 62.9% of moms in our Job Training program in FY2020 decreased their level of parental stress—a huge feat considering we all faced a new level of stress with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Heightened stress levels can create negative health outcomes including headaches, depression, heart problems, and a weakened immune system—all made even more pertinent due to the pandemic (American Psychological Association). By lowering stress levels, moms are able to protect themselves and their children from negative health and mental health effects, and also focus on working towards achieving their goals for the future. As Job Training alum Julissa said, “New Moms helped me learn to cope with mom life and work and dealing with stress.” You can learn more about tools New Moms uses to help young moms deal with stress on our COVID-19 response page here.

DAY 2:

On Day 2 of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek through Day 4 we talked about the benefits of Doulas. Doulas, also known as birth coaches, work with expecting mothers to support them during their birth experience. Pregnant women referred to New Moms are encouraged to engage with a Doula. Doulas provide support and education for mothers from 28 weeks into their pregnancy to six weeks after the baby is born. As New Moms’ Doula, Mary Calderon says, “Being a Doula is all about empowering the mom. I provide physical, informational, and emotional support.” 

DID YOU KNOW? Research indicates that 22% of Black women receive lower quality of care than white women and are subject to discrimination in the healthcare field (Source: RSAP).

However, studies show that perinatal community-based models of care offer enhanced care and support throughout the pre-pregnancy to postpartum spectrum, including doula and midwifery childbirth services to pregnant women who face barriers to care (Source: CAP). In FY2020, 95 young moms in our Family Support program engaged with a Doula. New Moms’ doulas encourage young women as they prepare for birth and early parenthood, advocate for moms through confusing and oftentimes biased healthcare systems, and coach moms about the physical, emotional, and mental stages of pregnancy, bonding, and options for breastfeeding. As former participant, and now current employee, Olivia Edwards said about her Doula during her time in the Family Support program, “She taught me so much and if I had a question about anything the doors were opened.” Doulas at New Moms work hard to ensure young moms are getting the best care possible, and we are so grateful for all the amazing work they do! To learn more about what it’s like to be a Doula, check out our blog post, “Doula: A Witness to Beauty.”

DAY 3:

Day 3 of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek we talked all about breastfeeding and Doulas!

DID YOU KNOW? Only about 66% of Black infants are breastfed compared to more than 82% of White and Latinx moms, and hospitals in areas with higher percentages of Black residents were less likely to provide adequate breastfeeding information and support to new mothers (Source: CDC).

The theme of this year’s Black Maternal Health Week is “Claiming our Power, Resilience, and Liberation,” and Doulas are a big part of helping pregnant women and young moms claim that power. One way Doulas help moms claim their power is by encouraging and educating them in breastfeeding and bonding, putting moms in control of their choices. And at New Moms, 88% of young moms with a Doula-attended birth initiated breastfeeding. If moms have the ability and choose to breastfeed, its benefits are bountiful for both mom and baby. For mom, they include benefits such as lowering the risk of diseases like breast cancer, postpartum depression, and diabetes; increased bonding between mom and baby, and cost-effectiveness (free!). And benefits for baby can include but are not limited to: reduces the risk of SIDS and fights disease and infection; obtaining antibodies and nutrients that can increase brain development and IQ, cognitive and motor skills, and development for preterm infants (Sources: Black Girls’ Breastfeeding Club and Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association). We at New Moms are proud to have a team of committed Doulas who help moms claim their power to initiate breastfeeding, improving health outcomes for themselves and their baby!

To learn more about Black Maternal Health at New Moms, join us TOMORROW, 4/14 for Coffee Chat: Black Maternal Health, in which you can join us for a brief, virtual Q&A with New Moms staff as they discuss the unique challenges Black pregnant women and new moms face because of systemic racism in healthcare. 

Skin to skin contact after birth, breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth, and rooming in (mother and infant staying in the same hospital room day and night) are all practices that will help moms bond early with their baby and have a solid start to breastfeeding (Source: Source: Black Girls’ Breastfeeding Club)

Doulas encourage breastfeeding and bonding, putting moms in control of their choices. According to national research, doula presence at birth decreases medical interventions at delivery, and reduces labor complications. Doula-supported mothers are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics, have greater breastfeeding success, have a lower incidence of abuse, and lower postpartum depression rates (Source: dona.org).

DAY 4:

On Day 4 of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek we discussed health disparities Black pregnant women face, how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those disparities, and how Doulas work to combat them. On this day, we also hosted our second Coffee Chat with New Moms, focusing on Black maternal health. Click here or view the recording of that webinar below!

DID YOU KNOW? Black pregnant women are three to four times more likely to die from complications during pregnancy compared to white women (Source: American Heart Association). And now the pandemic is magnifying that problem. Of the COVID-19 pregnancy cases reported in Illinois, Black women make up 23% (Source: Chicago Tribune). Pregnant people who contract COVID-19 are also at an increased risk for exhibiting severe illness—including illness that results in ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and death—compared with non-pregnant people. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 might be at increased risk for other adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth. (Source: CDC) 

According to national research, doula presence at birth decreases medical interventions at delivery and reduces labor complications (Source: dona.org). Though New Moms’ services have had to shift during the pandemic to be primarily virtual, Doulas are still able to use video-conferencing to arm participants with the information they need to advocate for themselves within a biased healthcare system. As Doula Mary Calderon explained to the Chicago Tribune, through these virtual visits she talks with pregnant women about finding healthy food and the impact that can have on their babies, the importance of prenatal care and meeting with doctors, and she encourages them to speak up at appointments. Marlene Durand, a Family Support participant who had Mary as a Doula, said weekly calls with Mary made her feel supported, and “She always let me know that she’s proud of me and what I’m doing, and that I’m a very strong woman,” she said. “I really love that, because sometimes you just need to hear that.” Read more about how COVID-19 disproportionately affects pregnant women of color and New Moms’ work to rectify that here, and read more of Mary and Marlene’s conversations in this Chicago Tribune article detailing how Doulas and postpartum home visits may be covered under Medicaid in a new Illinois proposal.

We are also happy to share that Governor Pritzker has also passed a policy that will protect mothers 12 months postpartum—aimed at reducing the rate of maternal morbidity and mortality—a huge win for Black mothers and pregnant women, who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Click here to read the full announcement and policy details. 

Click this image to view the recording from our Coffee Chat on Black maternal health, recorded on Wednesday, 4/14.

 

DAY 5:

On Day 5 of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek our topic was reproductive health. 

DID YOU KNOW? Black women are more likely than white women to report using a contraceptive method associated with lower efficacy (e.g., withdrawal, condoms), or no contraception at all (Source: AJOG). Black women disproportionately lack necessary reproductive healthcare—including contraception, STI screenings, abortion, and reproductive cancer screenings. This leaves them vulnerable to many risk factors around pregnancy. Recent improvements in maternal and infant health across the 20th century are due, in part, to expanded contraceptive access and use (Source: CDC).

New Moms’ Family-Centered Coaching (FCC) approach puts young families at the center of our program delivery—partnering with young moms and their kids in a “2-Generation” approach, placing moms in the driver’s seat as they construct the foundation for their family’s well-being. Embodying FCC values means we believe everyone has the strength, skills, and potential to set and achieve their goals, and this is grounded in a racial equity perspective. We’ve integrated an FCC toolkit across our programs to guide coaches in discussing a variety of topics with participants, ensuring that moms are always the ones in control of their goals.  

One of the many topics in the FCC toolkit is reproductive health. We believe that good reproductive health ensures that mothers are receiving adequate prenatal, birth, and postpartum health care. Providing non-judgmental resources and support enables mothers to normalize the importance of preventative and ongoing reproductive medical care as a means to taking ownership of her life and accomplishing her goals. The toolkit includes actions for coaches to follow to make moms feel best supported in their reproductive health concerns, and powerful questions to ask moms to help them feel comfortable and also to prepare them for any reproductive health issues they may face. Equipped with support and knowledge from their coaches, 98.7% of participants in our Housing program in FY20 chose to delay having another child. As we shared yesterday, pregnant people, especially pregnant people of color, are more vulnerable to contracting and experiencing severe COVID-19 infections, so delaying subsequent pregnancy can be a powerful choice for a mom to protect her reproductive health. We are proud that New Moms’ coaches work hard to provide a supportive, open, and non-judgmental environment for young mothers to ask and be asked powerful questions, and talk through their reproductive plans and concerns with their coach. 

Want to support young moms and pregnant women? Purchase items off our special Black Maternal Health Amazon Registry, where you can directly send hygiene and personal care products to moms in our programs, here.

DAY 6:

On Day 6 of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek, we talked about access to healthcare coverage and how that impacts health outcomes for families of color.

DID YOU KNOW? Black and Latinx people are more likely to be uninsured than white people (Source: CDC). Prior to implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nearly one in three Hispanic Americans and one in five Black Americans were uninsured, compared to about one in eight white Americans (Source: Brookings Institution).

Access to affordable health insurance is one of the many factors, also called social determinants of health, that put racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from preventable causes. Many people will forgo doctor’s visits until their problems are too severe to ignore because adequate care is too expensive. At New Moms, our coaches work one-on-one with participants to set and pursue their goals around health and health coverage. Our Family Support Coaches refer moms to partner healthcare providers, help moms apply for medical benefits, and offer mental healthcare resources while reducing taboo and judgment about accessing these services. In fact, 96% of our participants have a medical home, which is critical to ensuring long-term family well-being.

Access to health coverage is also tied to stable employment. While COVID-19 has affected all of us, it has had a tremendous, immediate impact on the families New Moms serves. The pandemic has exacerbated employment loss, especially for young moms in front-line retail, manufacturing, and service industries. And with the loss of a job comes the loss of health benefits. Destiny, a resident at New Moms’ Transformation Center, lost her job as a field worker for the Census. This meant she had to pay out-of-pocket for her daughter’s Vitamin-D drops while struggling to pay all of her other bills. Fortunately, as part of New Moms’ COVID-19 response, we partnered with organizations to provide direct financial relief to families in our programming. Destiny said, “I felt relief, that there was hope. I took care of everything I needed to with the money.” You can read more about our cash transfer initiative in this blog post. New Moms’ Job Training program also directly supports young moms to find stable employment that can help them secure healthcare benefits. Our employment specialists work with young moms up to two years post-graduation as they navigate the job market.

Looking for ways to support young moms as they work to build stable futures for their families? Click here to purchase essential items to support young families in New Moms programs from our special Black Maternal Health Amazon Registry.

DAY 7: 

On Day 7, the last day of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek we discussed toxic stress and how it takes a toll on the long-term health and well-being of moms of color.

DID YOU KNOW? Living in poverty and experiencing scarcity can impact brain development and negatively affect long-term individual and community health (Source: Harvard Center for the Developing Child).

At New Moms, we partner with moms, 24 and under, as they take powerful first steps toward economic mobility and family well-being. However, this work is not easy for young families. Institutional and systemic racism perpetrated against Black and Brown people, bias against adolescent moms, and disinvestment in communities of color create an environment full of toxic stress the experience of strong, frequent, and/or prolonged exposure to stressful situations. 

Living in poverty and experiencing scarcity are major sources of toxic stress. The absence of basic essentials or lack of security can overwhelm the brain’s cognitive bandwidth, making it challenging for people to make decisions that support their long-term well-being. As New Moms Doula Mary Calderon says, “When a woman is experiencing chronic stress from scarcity, not having enough food, not knowing where she’s going to live, being unemployed, chronic stress from racism, that seeps in on a cellular level.” Since 97% of the young families that come to New Moms are experiencing poverty, reducing stress by meeting basic needs and modifying the environment to make accessing resources less taxing, is a vital way we support our participants. Relieving the stress of basic needs alleviates the “tax” on a mom’s brain and makes it easier for her to focus on setting other family goals like housing, education, financial independence, long-term employment, etc.

New Moms coaches regularly provide essential supplies like bus cards, diapers/wipes/formula, kids’ clothing/coats, cleaning and home care supplies to participants. All of these items are generously donated by our New Moms community. During the pandemic, the need for basic necessities has only increased, and you can see how our Family Support Specialists continue to meet the needs of families by reading this blog post. New Moms also partners with organizations like The #EveryWoman Project to provide feminine hygiene products to moms. You can learn more about their work on their website. We’re proud to say that because of this commitment to meeting the basic needs of families, 96% of participants felt supported by the program and their peers (as reported on the Group Connection Survey).

A great way to show your support for young moms of color and have an immediate impact on the lives of our families is to purchase basic necessities from our special Black Maternal Health Amazon Registry. All items are shipped directly to our office to be distributed to families.


Thank you so much for joining us for this year’s Black Maternal Health Week, founded by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and for taking the time to learn more about how New Moms is working to improve the health of the young moms we partner with — supporting them as they work towards their goal of achieving long-term well-being for themselves and their families.

We look forward to #BMHW22!


Posted on April 17, 2021

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