Baby Dove is taking action to help Black pregnant people, who face significant disparities when it comes to maternal care in the U.S.
The company announced a new fund on Tuesday to help Black pregnant women or birthing people pay for doulas.
"Doulas provide services that go beyond what's provided in a health care center or hospital, far beyond what clinicians even have the time to do," Angela D. Aina, executive director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, which partnered with Dove on the initiative, told TODAY.
Doulas are trained professionals who provide support to birthing people before, during and after childbirth, but do not deliver babies like a midwife or obstetrician does. Their services aren't typically covered by health insurance plans, so most people who hire them pay out of pocket.
Multiple studies have shown that having a doula leads to better birth outcomes — which could have a huge impact on the Black community, which faces disproportionately high maternal mortality and morbidity rates. Black women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women in the U.S., for example, and are subject to systemic racism in the health care industry that has devastating, and sometimes deadly, consequences.
"This is happening to Black women regardless of their socioeconomic status, background or education," said Aina, whose organization advocates for improved Black maternal health. "What we are experiencing is a significant systemic issue with our health care system. Black women are experiencing a high amount of what we call institutional racism and sexism, and (having) terrible experiences around maternal care, which some would classify as obstetric violence."
Black mothers have described being denied pain medication while giving birth or having their symptoms ignored by their doctors, for example.
Doulas can help, Aina explained, by helping Black pregnant people navigate the health care system, keeping a closer eye on their physical and mental health before and after childbirth and advocating for them when necessary. Doulas are also often able to provide more culturally congruent care than people may receive from their doctors and may be better equipped to support birthing people who are transgender or gender-nonconforming, she added.
Baby Dove established the Black Birth Equity Fund with a $250,000 donation. It will give out $1,300 grants to more than 190 people in the first six months, the company told TODAY. All proceeds from Baby Dove's new Melanin-Rich Skin Care gift sets, available exclusively at Walmart and on Walmart.com, will also be contributed to the fund.
The company began accepting applications on Tuesday. Black women or birthing people who are currently pregnant and living in the U.S. are welcome to apply.
While Aina applauded Baby Dove's fund, she stressed that it's only one step toward birth equity for Black people, and said that more needs to be done to change the systemic issues in health care.
"We are always promoting the importance of listening to Black women and trusting Black women and investing in Black women," she said.