GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — During Black Maternal Health Week, a local doula is shining a light on the struggles Black mothers may face.

Black women are three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy than white women who had the same pregnancy-related health condition, according to the National Health Institute.

In Grand Rapids, Lyanna Moore is a doula working with Black families.

“A lot of young ladies were saying how negative their experience was at the hospital, kind of the experience of being told what to do instead of being asked what can happen,” said Lyanna Moore.

Moore has three daughters, all born in hospitals.

“My experience with my first delivery was the hardest,” she recalled. “They’ll throw the words at you but they won’t give you the explanation so it will leave you feeling as if you are lost and you don’t know what those things mean. And so as a resource I definitely educate my clients but I do want them to get that education for themselves,” said Moore.

More Black mothers are starting to use midwives and doulas due to negative statistics surrounding Black births.

“I want to make a difference in the statistics I was seeing,” said Moore. 

Centers for Disease Control and prevention data from 2021 found 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births for Black women compared to 26.6 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.

From 2015 to 2019, Black women in Michigan experienced a pregnancy-related mortality rate of 29.8 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 10.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.

“This can be due to lack of education, lack of resources, but also due to implicit bias and just underlying racism in the medical field,” said Moore. “There have been issues with medical texts that say that Black patients don’t feel pain the same as white or Hispanic patients or just that their needs aren’t considered as important.”

The Black Maternal Health campaign is working to decrease infant mortality rates for Black families.

“I know there is a lot of discussion on how we can help and what we can do but really, it’s time for action, it’s time for put your money where your mouth is and help decrease these rates because we still shouldn’t be at three to four more likely, we shouldn’t have our numbers so high in this modern age,” said Moore.

Socioeconomic status does not protect Black women against any type of bias or racism.

“I always like to reference Serena Williams because she almost died in childbirth only because people weren’t listening to her about her body and what she knew was wrong. There are other celebrities, lawyers and doctors who have gone through the same thing,” said Moore. 

From April 11 to April 17, groups around Grand Rapids and the country are amplifying their message to protect Black women and mothers.

“You have a voice and I feel like you need to use it. Don’t be afraid to speak up, don’t be afraid to say, ‘Hey I need you to write this down,’ ‘Hey, I need to look into this because I am not feeling comfortable, I’m not feeling okay,’” said Moore. “The more we use our voice, the more we push back a little bit, I think medical professionals will start to understand that we are educated and even though they are a little bit more knowledgeable, we are too.” 

Now in it’s 6th year, Black Maternal Health Week was founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. This year’s theme is “Our Bodies Belong to Us: Restoring Black Autonomy and Joy!” The White House proclaimed Black Maternal Health Week Monday. Sen. Erika Geiss also introduced Black Maternal Health Week as Senate Resolution 28

For doula support in West Michigan, visit Moore’s website or La Leche League of Grand Rapids.