By Almetria Turner, CCHW, CLES, CPPC, CPST, RYT, RPYT, REC-C, MA 

April 11–17 has been declared National Black Maternal Health Awareness Week in the U.S. Currently, the U.S. is experiencing a maternal health crisis, and the majority of the southern states rank at the bottom in regards to having access to quality maternal healthcare. 

According to the 2023 March of Dimes Report Card and the Shelby County Health Fetal and Infant Mortality Department, Shelby County has the highest number of preterm births, low-weight births, and infant and maternal mortality rates in Tennessee, especially amongst African American women and birthing people. Tennessee’s overall infant and maternal mortality statistics are higher than the national average. 

African American women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, and over 80% of all pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

While these statistics are dire, there’s hope. Studies have shown that adding a culturally congruent doula to the mother’s and birthing person’s support team has been proven to be beneficial in reducing maternal and infant mortality statistics in the U.S. 

A doula is a trained, non-clinical birth professional who offers continuous informational, emotional, and physical support to pregnant women, birthing people, and their families before, during, and after childbirth. Doulas work alongside obstetricians, midwives, and other healthcare professionals but do not deliver babies. 

There are several different types of doulas who offer an array of support, perinatal education, comfort measures, breathing techniques, and services from preconception to postpartum, including fertility, birth, postpartum, abortion, pregnancy loss, adoption, surrogacy, IVF/ RIVF, and end-of-life care. 

Modern-day doulas appear to be on trend in recent years, given the urgent need for their presence. These birth keepers, attendants, and grand midwives date back hundreds of years, when people gave birth at home surrounded by family coupled with culturally rich rituals and traditions. 

Mothers and birthing people now have the option of giving birth at home, within a birthing center, or in a hospital, along with the option of choosing the type of doula that will best support their particular needs. 

Every family deserves to have a doula and access to affordable, respectful, and equitable care, regardless of insurance, finances, or the lack thereof. No matter if you’re a first-time mom, birthing person or not, want to have an unmedicated or medicated birth, or even if you’re scheduled to have a c-section birth, each pregnancy is different. Having a doula by your side can be beneficial in reducing maternal and infant mortality rates and having a more positive birth experience. 

While doulas don’t guarantee birth outcomes, their presence, evidence-based education, advocacy skills, and expertise can offer the mother and birthing person the self-efficacy they need for them to use their voice and make well-informed and confident decisions throughout the perinatal process. 

Benefits of Hiring a Doula 

  1. Offers companionship and unbiased support with 24/7 access for questions or concerns during pregnancy, on-call starting at 37 weeks, and doula support during active labor, delivery, and postpartum. 
  2. Provide evidence-based education. A well-informed decision is an empowered decision. 
  3. Lowers the rate, risk, and need for medical interventions, inductions, pain medication, and c-sections. 
  4. Clients often have shorter labor because of their presence, reassurance, and expertise. 
  5. Advocate on your behalf to make sure your voice and wishes are heard, and your providers are following your birth plan unless medically necessary. 
  6. Provide comfort measures to help the birthing person get the baby into an optimal fetal position by changing positions using props and movement. 
  7. Helps reduce stress and anxiety using breathing techniques to assist with pain management. 
  8. Offers partner support. Doulas are not replacements for your loved ones. They’re an extension of the birthing person’s support team, which provides an extra set of hands, eyes, and ears to listen and advocate on your behalf while also providing comfort and reassurance to your support team. 
  9. Access to community resources to help supplement and meet your growing family’s needs. 

There are many benefits to hiring a doula. If you decide you want a doula on your support team, do research and make sure they’re the right fit for you. Do they align with your morals, values, and birth goals, and do they respect your voice, choice, cultural beliefs, and lived experiences? 

Most doulas charge $500–$5,000 depending upon their experience, services offered, and where they’re located in the U.S. If having full doula support is outside of your budget, some doulas offer a la carte services such as virtual support, birth and postpartum planning, lactation support, childbirth education classes, birth or postpartum support only, as well as many other perinatal services. 

Birth is unpredictable, and sometimes you have to be flexible with your birth plan, but having a compassionate and culturally congruent doula on your team who has you, your baby, and your family’s best interests at heart is one of the greatest investments you can make for your growing family. 

Almetria Turner, CCHW, CLES, CPPC, CPST, RYT, RPYT, REC-C, MA (she/her) is a Multi-Hyphenate Wellness DisruptHER, Full Spectrum Doula, Health Equity Advocate and Owner of Roots and River Wellness, a Black woman-owned doula service helping women, birthing people, and their families become rooted and grounded for birth and beyond. For more information, contact Roots and River Wellness at 901.340.2866 or visit You can also follow their page on Facebook or Instagram at Fit and Finally Free.