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The Quiet But Affirming Birth Activism From West Midlands Doulas

A lot has been written recently about the disparities in birth outcomes for black women and rightly so. The figures are alarming. 

The 2018 MBRRACE-UK report revealed that black women were five times more likely to die during birth, or within a year of giving birth, than white women. 

When I first saw the statistics, like many people I’ve spoken to, I had to double-check they were actually referencing the UK. Honestly, even as a black doula whose clients have been mainly black and brown women, I had no idea black women were dying in such disproportionate numbers.

In the UK, work in the field of birth activism started long before the publication of the most recent MBRRACE report. Pioneering black women like Elsie Gayle, an independent midwife in the West Midlands; Dr Jenny Douglas, chairwoman of the Black Women’s Health and Wellbeing Research Network; and many others have been leading the charge for more than 30 years, but were a minority in the field. Elsie, in particular, has campaigned for timely woman-centred care based on women’s cultural needs and values.