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St. Louis doula agency wants to help more women by offering multilingual training

Virtuously B’Earthed Doula Services, a St. Louis area birthing agency, received nearly $90,000 to teach prenatal and postpartum doula care this fall in Spanish, French, Somali and Arabic. The agency will provide translated manuals and training to bilingual women.
LaKisha Reddit
Virtuously B’Earthed Doula Services received nearly $90,000 to teach doula care services this fall in Spanish, French, Somali and Arabic. The agency will provide translated manuals and training to bilingual women.

Across the country, maternity mortality rates are high, particularly for Black and Hispanic mothers. The racial disparity is causing many women to experience poorer childbirth outcomes.

Virtuously B’Earthed Doula Services is working to help reduce that rate in the St. Louis region. This fall, women who are bilingual in Spanish, Arabic, French or Somali can receive doula training in English and materials in their other language through the agency’s Train-the-Trainer program.

The American hospital setting should include birth workers who look like their patients and speak the same language, said LaKisha Reddit, the agency’s owner.

“Part of the reason that they don't get as much care as they should, is obviously because of the language barrier and the fear of being deported back to the home country that they came from because of document status, so they have gaps in health care that we're not talking about,” she said.

Healthy Blue Missouri, a managed care company, granted the St. Louis doula services nearly $90,000 to plan and implement the translated materials and help with training. The grant will sponsor six cohort members.

“By providing the training in more languages, it allows for access to native language speakers which enhances access to doula services as well as equity in doula care,” said Jeff Davis, Healthy Blue Missouri president.

Participants must be bilingual and become doula certified through Virtuously B’Earthed Doula Services. Once the doula training is completed, the cohort will train with LaKisha Reddit for six weeks. They will learn how to structure their own doula training programs, facilitate adult doula training, classroom management and lesson planning. Applications will open this spring.

“I want them to be able to add their cultural relevance to the doula training and use the resources in the communities and add on to the standard framework that Virtuously B'Earthed Doula Services already have,” Reddit said.

Mayalin Escobar did not have a notably bad experience while giving birth to her children, but the Cuba native believes their births could have gone smoother if she had a Spanish-speaking doula present to help support her physically and emotionally.

She became a doula in October to provide translation assistance to Spanish women in the St. Louis region who need someone to advocate for them while giving birth.

Just within the past three months, Escobar sees that there is a demand for Hispanic doulas. She said many mothers have expressed to her that when they do not have a Spanish-speaking doula in the birthing room, then they do not receive the same level of care.

Escobar said she has received complaints from mothers stating that their childbirth experience was horrible because the medical staff made them stay in the bed and did not pay attention to their wants and needs.

To help more immigrant women during childbirth, Reddit plans to continue multilingual doula training and offer in the near future training manuals in Bosnian, Vietnamese, Chinese and other prominent languages in the St. Louis region.

She hopes the Train-the-Trainer program will encourage more immigrant women and bilingual women to become doulas and support women in their communities throughout pregnancy and postpartum.

“Community is not black and white,” Reddit said. “Our communities come from so many backgrounds, and they too deserve the same support to ensure everyone is able to survive in the medical system.”

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.