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Trained doulas can improve childbirth outcomes — Emotional support ‘inseparable’ from cultural support



By Michelle Lawrence

Contributing Writer


Recent research from the University of Minnesota shows what women like Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra have known for decades: Cultural support during pregnancy has a positive impact on birth outcomes among women of African American heritage. A birth outcome is defined as the result of a pregnancy and depends on several factors such as whether the infant is born early, survives childbirth, and is born weighing at least 5.7 pounds. “When we compared birth outcomes among culturally diverse Medicaid recipients who received prenatal education and childbirth support from trained doulas with those from a national population of similar women, we estimated a 40 percent reduction in cesarean rates,” said Katy Backes Kozhimannil, lead researcher on the U of MN study. “When you look at the potential cost savings associated with a rate reduction of this magnitude, Medicaid reimbursement for birth doulas could be a case where adding coverage on the front end could ultimately result in real dollars saved.”

Currently, taxpayers fund nearly half of all U.S. births through state Medicaid programs, which generally do not cover doula care. A cesarean birth costs almost 50 percent more than a vaginal birth, with average Medicaid payments of $9,131 for a vaginal birth and $13,590 for a cesarean delivery. Continue Reading →

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The healing effect of cooking is in the hand of the preparer

Salut a los espíritus of this house and the espiritu que abre las puertas,” (greetings to the spirits of this house and the spirit that opens doors), I said as I entered the small one-bedroom apartment of my spiritual godfather from Cuba. Kneeling down to greet Elegua, the gatekeeper of the crossroads in Cuban Santeria, whom by custom sits behind the front door, I saluted the ancestral spirits that dwell in, guard and protect my godfather’s home. Sitting down on the sofa, while remaining still, and very conscious of my body language, I listened while my godfather began to conduct the ritual of welcoming me into the space. “Mafarefun,” he said to each of his personal ancestors and the ancestors of the Yoruban tradition. “Mitchelle aa-quita,” (Michelle is here) he said. Continue Reading →

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