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Why Black Maternal Health Week matters

DURHAM, N.C. — Black Maternal Health Week was created to address gaps in health care and bring awareness to the lack of resources readily available to Black moms in America. It takes place from April 11-17.

What You Need To Know

  • Black Maternal Health Week is April 11-17

  • The week of awareness was started in 2019 by a group called the Black Mamas Matter Alliance

  • Joy Spencer is the executive director of the Equity Before Birth

  • EBB is a nonprofit organization aimed at fusing economic and birth justice for Black women, based in Durham

On the last day, a mom in Durham talked about dealing with the issue. Joy Spencer said it can take a village of support to help navigate health care hurdles as a Black mother.

“What’s helped me overcome obstacles the most is knowing I’m not alone. Knowing that there’s a village and a community behind me that can really help,” Spencer said.

One of the proudest titles in Spencer’s life is being a mom to her daughter, Kaliah. She believes Black mothers relate to other Black mothers.

“I think it gives an increased sense of trust. I also think lived experience provides a layer of expertise that you are not going to find anywhere else,” Spencer said.

Since her 4-year-old was born, Spencer said she has grown used to overcoming challenges.

“Sticking up for yourself as a Black mama is very stigmatized. You can come across as an angry Black woman,” Spencer said.

That’s why she proudly shares her life story because, as she puts it, the quality of resources for moms-to-be and those who already have children, can be a lot better.

“To acknowledge that we are in a pretty dismal state, we can do better. I also see Black Maternal Health Week as celebrating Black mamas birthing people and babies,” Spencer said.

The 35-year-old said at one point after her own pregnancy, a cyst ruptured inside her stomach. She said the real issue originated with the response from health professionals not heeding her warning when she told them she could feel something wrong with her body.

“I almost died. My connection to being ignored by the health care system is very personal,” Spencer said.

That’s why she took her lived experience and channeled it toward the greater good at Equity Before Birth.

EBB is a nonprofit organization with the goal of improving birth outcomes and saving lives for Black mothers. The mission of EBB is fusing economic and birth justice to give mothers a fairer start to life for their babies.

“What that means is eliminating financial barriers when people want to seek pregnancy-related services. You want a doula? You can’t afford it? We cover the cost. You now have that enhanced pregnancy experience,” Spencer said.

It’s a space she feels she is meant to work in.

“Helping people is my purpose, my passion, my calling,” she said.

Some resources advertised on their website cover a few different areas:

Prenatal & labor and delivery support:

  • Supplemental income for medically required bed rest up to one month

  • Transportation to visits and appointments

  • Perinatal education classes (Includes: Childbirth education classes, newborn mommy & me classes, or breastfeeding/chestfeeding classes)

  • Access to a therapist

  • Doula services - prenatal, delivery, and postpartum services

Postpartum Support:

  • Supplemental income for up to three months for postpartum recovery

  • Access to a therapist

  • Feeding support

  • Essential baby items (diapers, crib, car seat etc. as needed)

  • Postpartum doula services

  • Transportation to visits and appointments

Essential family items might include:

  • Crib, mattress and linens

  • Carseat and stroller

  • Basic clothing

  • Bottles, pacifiers and other feeding supplies

  • Diapers and wipes

  • Prenatal vitamins for pregnancy and nursing



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