Ds Scholarship

Could doulas be the answer to improving birth outcomes in Central Texas?

Waco Family Medicine has partnered with the Dulles Community of Waco to launch a paraprofessional training program aimed at improving birth outcomes in the area.

The program trains women in the community in areas such as lactation, perinatal education, and postpartum doula. The goal of the program is to improve birth outcomes in Central Texas, while providing mothers who complete the training with another source of income.

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Grace Morris John is one of nine mothers to receive a scholarship through the program. As a housewife mother of four children, balancing her studies requires a lot of discipline.

“When they take a nap, I usually read or do something,” Maurice John explained.

Morris John said she was inspired to become a midwife after going through bad experiences with the birth of her first two children. She says her second child was born with a rope wrapped around his neck, but no one at the hospital told her.

“Having these experiences–and knowing what I know now that I have them–I don’t want anyone else to have to navigate it themselves,” said Morris John. “Owning a Doula, I already had the voice to express my concerns.”

For the birth of her third child, Maurice John hired a midwife. For her fourth child, she rented a doula through the Doulas of Waco community. She says it made all the difference.

“If you’re going into stressful labour, it could have a huge impact on you. It can make your labor take longer. It increases the risk of complications. People underestimate the impact that just stress can have on you having a baby.”

After her experience, Maurice John spoke to her husband about becoming a doula herself, but they didn’t have the funds to train her. That’s when she received an unexpected call from the Doulas of Waco community – offering her a scholarship to help her pursue training for free.

“I was so excited. I was so excited.” Morris John said, “If I hadn’t had the scholarship, it would have been at least two years so I could start. Now I’m done halfway.”

Alarming statistics

Waco Family Medicine funded the scholarships in response to the alarming statistics. According to the March of Dimes, the United States has one of the worst maternal mortality rates among developed nations. More than 700 women die of childbirth each year, and about 600,000 women face serious health challenges.

For communities of color, the risks are higher. According to the CDC, black and Indigenous women are 60% more likely to give birth prematurely than white women, and their babies are twice as likely to die before their first birthday.

“It’s been around for decades — this gap, but at Waco Family Medicine we’re saying that’s unacceptable,” said Emily Cunningham, director of women’s and children’s programs at Waco Family Medicine.

Cunningham says she and her team have been looking for out-of-the-ordinary ideas to help change these stats. Cunningham says they have noticed a lack of peer support available for pregnant women of color in the Waco area. They think doulas can help fill this gap.

“Doulas keep climbing to the top because they are rooted in the relationship, and that’s the secret sauce, right?” Cunningham said. “The secret sauce is access, kindness, and information relevant to you…Doulas increases mothers’ confidence, improves outcomes for both mothers and babies, and breast-feeding success.”

For Grace Morris John, balancing four children and her studies is very difficult. But she’s on a mission to make an impact — one mother at a time.

Maurice John said, “I am so happy I am going to do it, I am grateful to them for helping me make my dream come true.”

Waco Family Medicine says they plan to expand the program in 2022.

You can find more information about the Community Doula of Waco program and mission on their website: https://communitydoulaswaco.org/.

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