Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Holistic Health Studies


Holistic Health

First Advisor

Stasia Johnson Steinhagen


Holistic Health Studies


Infant and maternal health disparities are threatening Black families across the United States. The maternal mortality rate for Black women is 2.9 times the rate of White women. Black women are experiencing racism, discrimination, disrespect, and neglect in their perinatal care. Continuous labor support, such as a doula, is associated with improved perinatal care experiences and outcomes. Community-based doula programs seek to address disparities in perinatal outcomes through racially/culturally concordant relationships between birthing women and doulas. Several studies explore Black women’s perinatal care experiences, but few studies describe the experiences of Black women who have had Black doula support. Rooted in the critical paradigm, we used a phenomenological approach to conduct semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of eight Black women in the United States to describe their experience with Black doula support during their perinatal care. Using thematic data analysis, our participants express that culturally reflective care matters and that they experience empowered birth experiences, advocacy, and support with their Black doula care. Overall, they feel their culturally matched doulas transform healthcare’s anti-Black spaces, providing holistic and person-centered care and support. Policymakers, insurance companies, and healthcare organizations must recognize the benefits of and improve access to doula care; support Black people in becoming doulas; and, make the doula profession sustainable for Black doulas and their families. Further research centering Black women’s voices is essential; Black women’s expertise can guide meaningful policy change and address maternal health disparities.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 22, 2024