Tennessee has some of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, and nationwide Black women are more likely to lose a child than white women.
A new health center hopes to lower Middle Tennessee’s rates by connecting families with doulas who will advocate for them before, during and after pregnancy.
The nonprofit group Homeland Heart Birth & Wellness Collective’s new Perinatal Support Center opened its doors in East Nashville on Tuesday.
“We are so happy to be home in one of the communities that we serve,” says doula Kristin Mejia-Greene.
The Perinatal Support Center has private support rooms for parents, changing stations in every room and a community space. It works with Black families to provide free or low-cost services.
The center is a partnership with the Metro Public Health Department’s program Nashville Strong Babies, which offers free services to families with the most need.
“Having a perinatal support center that is for people of color, birthing people of color in Nashville, is a signal of a couple of things,” says D’Yuanna Allen-Robb, director of Metro’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health division. “It’s a signal of our commitment to serving ourselves. There is nobody that knows how to care for a community better than people who come from that community.”
Allen-Robb says the center is also part of the larger societal reckoning about racial biases.
Homeland Heart Birth and Wellness Collective also helps train women to become doulas. She says for people of color, a doula can help be the difference between life and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Black women are three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy.
“We want birth to be beautiful, not scary,” Mejia-Greene says.