By Florence Middleton. Originally published on The Oaklandside.

During pregnancy, Hayes joined BElovedBIRTH Black Centering, an Alameda Health System program available at Highland Hospital and most other AHS hospitals, which delivers perinatal care in a group setting. It launched in 2018 as part of Alameda County’s Perinatal Equity Initiative, which was designed by and for Black women and has served more than 100 participants. While standard postpartum care only includes one checkup, BElovedBIRTH provides approximately three. Participants join cohorts based on due dates, and the group setting allows women to bond with others going through the same experiences.

Although Hayes received prenatal and postpartum care from BElovedBIRTH midwives and did not have any significant health complications, she said, due to her body mass index, she was required to deliver with an obstetrician.

For Hayes, a significant benefit of the program was the community. On TV and among her friends, she did not see any Black women attending birth classes. But because of the program, she found other women she could talk to about what she was going through, whom she could call late at night.

“I never thought that could be something for me,” Hayes said. “Now I have women that I refer to as my lifelong sisters.”

According to the CDC, Black women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women. Another study shows the disparity between Black and white women remained high even after stratifying for education, poverty, and obesity levels.

Jyesha Wren, founder and program director of BElovedBIRTH and midwife at Highland Hospital, Alameda Health System, said she is not surprised by the new CDC data.

“We already knew that a large, very large proportion of the deaths that were happening were preventable. But these figures are even worse than previous ones I’ve seen,” Wren said. “Then when you layer on racism in addition to just already inadequate medical health care systems, it exacerbates the problem.”

Read the full article on The Oaklandside.