Racial discrimination and implicit bias sadly result in the unequal treatment of black women in our medical system and drive health inequality. In Rhode Island, black women are 42% more likely to experience a severe complication at delivery than white women, and the infant mortality rate for black infants is three times that of white infants. These statistics are unacceptable and unnecessary.

Fortunately, Rhode Island is developing a strong network of community-based doulas, like Latisha Michel of Ready Set Latch Go in Newport, dedicated to helping expecting moms through their pregnancy, birth, and the first months with their newborn child’s life. Research has shown that these services help to improve health outcomes for new moms and their babies.

That’s why RIght from the Start is urging the legislature to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through Medicaid and private insurance and investing in building, supporting, and sustaining our doula workforce. These services and investments should be targeted toward communities most impacted by these disparities.

Here’s Latisha’s story of empowering and helping new mom’s through pregnancy, the birthing process, and postpartum care:

Empowering Expecting Moms, Addressing Health Equity Issues, and Improving Health Outcomes

“I’ve been a certified doula for 2 years now, helping dozens of moms through their pregnancy and birth, but I still cry tears of joy every time I’m in the delivery room experiencing the miracle of life with a new mom I’ve helped through their journey. It’s the most amazing feeling to truly empower moms, see them safely through their delivery, and the early months of taking care of their new babies. I love what I do.

Certified Full Circle Doula Latisha Michel

I decided to become a certified doula because I didn’t feel informed, in control, or empowered during any of my own pregnancies. No new mom should feel that way navigating our health care system through what should be a safe, healthy, and joyful process.

That’s why I started Ready Set Latch Go. Ready: informing expecting moms about their options and how I can support them through their pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early postpartum period. Set- creating a birth plan, connecting and coordinating with health care providers, providing labor and birth support, and helping expecting moms navigate and connect to needed services. Latch: breast/bottle feeding support and education. Go: postpartum care, emotional support, and helping new moms connect with educational, health, child care, and other services.

A recent mom I helped is a great example of the services doulas provide. I connected with Kayla during her second trimester of her first baby. She hadn’t heard of doulas before, so we had several conversations about how I could support her through her pregnancy, birthing process, and postpartum care. Once she felt comfortable, she asked me to be her doula. I educated Kayla on comforting measures to make her pregnancy and birth more comfortable, coached the father on comforting and support techniques, and empowered her to make her own choices about delivery and pain management options. I was with her in the hospital at the birth of her beautiful, healthy, baby boy.

After the delivery, Kayla told me ‘Thank you for supporting me through this. I would never have known all my options.’

That’s what it’s all about. Empowering mom’s through their pregnancy, birthing process, and postpartum period of child bonding.

I’m still in touch with Kayla and have helped her connect with job opportunities, health care services, and educational programs. She’s even become a powerful community advocate for expanding doula services so other expecting moms can be empowered through their journey.

I know the services we provide work and improve health outcomes for the moms and newborns we serve. The health care system is starting to recognize the powerful role we can play, and that’s why it’s time for Medicaid and private insurance to cover doula services as a smart investment in improving health equity for all expecting moms.”