Black Doulas in Toledo Pushing Forward

Anita the Doula

Tiana Taylor and Anita the Doula are Toledo natives. They are both college graduates and entrepreneurs. They’ve also been working as full spectrum doulas for more than five years. Both women have experienced the joys of watching families get off to healthy starts, being empowered and well-prepared for transition into a new phase of life. Taylor also offers fertility, womb and pre-natal massage. 

Photo by empirical affair photography.

Taylor’s interest in birthwork first sparked while at college taking a class called “Women in Pain.” One chapter in her textbook discussed women birthing babies in different parts of the world. Taylor realized the differences between birth culture in America and other countries. For instance, in some cultures, childbirth is a communal event. Everyone helps. There’s a great realm of support as the standard, not as the exception.  

Anita the Doula has her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, is a paralegal, a Qualified Mental Health professional, and holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership. She is the founder and CEO of The Doula Xperience. She has been able to provide services at no cost through grants and contracts in partnership with these agencies: Mental Health Board, Ohio Department of Health, Healthy Start, Health Department, and Health Partners of NWO. Anita is thankful for the community and their support. Through grants and partnerships with these agencies she has trained and certified over 20 doulas. She is also a First/First Aid instructor.

Why doulas matter

Doulas provide physical and emotional support to women throughout pregnancy and the birthing process. Physical support may include relaxation techniques, massage therapy, birth positions and lactation consulting. They are able to be an advocate at appointments and during the birth itself. This allows an expectant mother to understand all the medical terminology being used and know all of her options. Doulas do not deliver babies.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics and National Vital Statistics System, mortality in 2020-2021 Black, non-Hispanic, maternal mortality rates were 2.6 times higher than their white counterparts. 

“Since 2020 there is a buzz word around Black women’s health. I can see certain medical professionals trying to work with us and understand our role. But the outcomes aren’t changing,” Taylor said. “The labor and delivery units struggle with being understaffed and stressed.”

Doula services are evidenced based practices that not only include a healthy birthing experience, but are also proven to decrease the risk of babies being born prematurely or having low birth weight. Doulas increase the likelihood of mother’s leaving the hospital breastfeeding. Cesarean sections and other medical interventions are less likely to be needed when a doula is present.

Who pays

Six states have billable doula services through Medicaid, Ohio is not one of them. Anita has advocated with Paula Hicks-Hudson in Columbus for these services to be billable directly through Medicaid. She has also met with other organizations and policy analysts in Washington DC. More private insurances are beginning to cover these services.

“There’s this misconception that Black doulas only serve women who are Black and low income, or that services are free. We are paid for our services and have a whole spectrum of clients. We’ve had women who have their PHd, master’s degree. We have private pay clients. And we serve all women, regardless of race,” Anita said.