California Maternal Health Care Program Helps Combat Racial Bias in Medical Industry
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Krista Hayes has something in common with many Black women in America: she feared for her life as she prepared to give birth to another one. 

Women like Hayes have seen the statistics that prove Black women are more likely to die from childbirth in the United States. According to a Mercury News report, the Oakland, California, mother feels the medical system has failed Black women to a point where she felt uncomfortable giving birth just anywhere.

Hayes, who has a daughter less than a year old, was concerned about her personal experiences with the healthcare system’s indifferent treatment toward Black people. 

Krista Hayes hold her infant daughter cheek to cheek as they both smile for a portrait against an abstract green background.
OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 29: Krista Hayes is photographed with her daughter Noa Hayes- Guess ,5 months, in their home on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

So when an OBG-YN from her local hospital suggested Hayes join a prenatal care program created for Black pregnant women in her state’s Alameda County, the 32-year-old was thrilled to learn more.

BElovedBIRTH Black Centering focuses on countering the bias treatment of Black women while giving birth, which was precisely Hayes’ focus. The program allows midwives, lactation consultants, doulas and family resource specialists to work under one roof to support Black birthing parents. 

“As a Black person you move differently and you’re treated differently.”

Oakland Mother Krista Hayes

“There has always been bias. Whether you talk about it or not, you feel it,” said Hayes, who enjoyed an all-Black health care team and group meetings through BElovedBIRTH. “As a Black person you move differently and you’re treated differently.” 

The program lives up to the “it takes a village” mentality. At the beginning of a patient’s pregnancy, they are matched with between eight and 12 other women with close due dates. Patients are given up to 15 two-hour group visits from early pregnancy through the early postpartum period. 

These expectant parents see healthcare professionals from different sectors all working together. Anyone from the Department of Obstetrics, Midwifery and Gynecology to Alameda County Public Health Department social service workers can be seen giving a hand at BElovedBIRTH Black Centering.

This profound sense of community helps create a safe and healthy environment for Black women to birth their children, and seasoned midwife Jyesha Wren is leading the pack within this space.

“It’s above and beyond anything that’s been done in perinatal care before,” to Mercury News said Wren, who’s passion and energy for helping Black women is evident.

“Our vision is to create a world where Black people have all the support, the loving care and the resources needed to have happy, healthy and safe pregnancies, births and postpartum recoveries, free from obstetric racism.”

East Oakland Midwife Jyesha Wren

Wren hopes to influence surrounding counties and states to adopt the BElovedBIRTH program, helping it make an even bigger impact on Black maternal health.