New wellness center coming to South Side aims to tackle the Black maternal health crisis

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ByWill Jones via WLS logo
Friday, July 29, 2022
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The fear of giving birth is real for many Black women.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Fear of giving birth is real for many Black women, even those in the medical profession, like nurse Shanekah Polk.

"I have heard nurses say things. I have seen things happen. I didn't want to have that experience. I wanted the pregnancy to be blissful," she said.

A new study by the Birth Place Lab University of British Columbia found pregnant women of color in the U.S. were twice as likely as white participants to report being physically violated, have a healthcare provider ignore or refuse a request for help, and be shouted at by healthcare providers.

"Birthing while Black has its drawbacks," Chicago Birthworks Collective co-founder Toni Taylor said.

Polk turned to the Chicago Birthworks Collective, a Black-owned birth and postpartum doula group. It's run by Taylor and her daughter, Tayo Mbande.

Their focus is on Black families.

"Someone has to be there because the healthcare system is not providing it for us," said Mbande, who is also a co-founder of Chicago Birthworks Collective.

Polk partnered with doula Maria Flanagan to welcome her daughter, Wisdom, into the world last September.

"I felt more comfortable going through this process, this life changing process with her by my side," she said.

Flanagan is a full spectrum doula, which means she provides care during pregnancy and postpartum.

"It is really important to me to have this relationship with my moms because pregnancy is a dynamic state to being in," she said.

The collective is hoping to make more of an impact when it opens its first maternal wellness studio later this year near East 55th Street and Cornell Avenue in Hyde Park.

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"I am in love with this new space," Taylor said.

The studio will have pregnancy, childbirth and parenting classes and a treatment room.

"It is important for there to be opportunities for folks to reach outside their healthcare network and find opportunities for wellness," Mbande said.

The new ABC News Studio and Onxy Collective documentary, Aftershock, takes a deeper look at the maternal health crisis and solutions.

The film follows two families grieving the loss of two young women who died due to childbirth complications.

It's streaming now on Hulu.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of Hulu and this ABC station.