SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Officials in San Francisco on Tuesday were pushing to give low-income families better access to childbirth coaches or doulas.
The program has city support, but is expected to be privately funded, mostly by non-profits like the San Francisco Foundation.
Five months ago, Nailah Muhammad gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Blossom. She worked with a doula and a midwife to give birth naturally and says she couldn’t have done it without their support.
“My doula was there every step of the way to massage my back, rub my feet, give me massages,” said Muhammad.
But before she found her doula, Muhammad says she felt alone and judged by a medical system she says is set up for white women. She says she could feel her doctors discriminating against her birth plan.
“Lots of times people think white women might be more educated on certain topics, so you can definitely feel that,” said Muhammad.
On the steps of San Francisco City Hall Tuesday, President of the Board of Supervisors Malia Cohen announced plans for the city to support increased access to doulas for low income women, specifically black and Pacific Islander mothers.
“It’s an issue of equity, an issue of fairness and an issue of respect,” said Cohen.
More than a year ago, the city announced some staggering statistics.
Black women make up just five percent of birthing mothers in San Francisco. But black babies make up 23 percent of all infant deaths in the city.
Nationally, black babies are twice as likely to die as their white counterparts. Their mothers are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from childbirth complications.
“We lose our babies in pregnancy and we lose them as infants. It has to stop,” said Jayvon Muhammad, the CEO of the Bayview Hunters Point Clinic.
Muhammad says this was an issue for her as a teen mom decades ago. But with black female leadership now in place in San Francisco, addressing the problem is becoming a priority.
“I think now the stars are aligning. We have the support we need from city government,” she said.
The pairings of doulas with low-income mothers are expected to start in January.