When Chanel Porchia-Albert became a doula more than a decade ago, times were different. According to the Brooklyn-based practitioner, who founded the Ancient Song Doula Services in 2008, little was known about doula support, and the conversations surrounding Black maternal health were usually limited to the kitchen tables of Black women.
“Our mission has always been about reducing or eliminating the infant maternal mortality rate,” Porchia-Albert tells ESSENCE. “Things have changed since I first started. Now, we are in a space where people are curious, more conversations are taking place around Black maternal health, and the word doula is something more people have heard about.”
Still, Porchia-Albert, recently featured in the documentary Aftershock, said there is more work to do surrounding adequate health care for Black mothers. The longtime doula has partnered with Baby Dove as the brand doubles down on its commitment to advance care for Black mothers. The company is also expanding the Black Birth Equity Fund—first created in 2021—by raising the initial investment from $250,000 to $500,000. The fund provides Black expecting mothers with financial access to doula services.
The brand, in partnership with Porchia-Albert, has also unveiled #DearDoula. The series will provide content across social media platforms to share answers to Black parents’ most common questions about pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum care, and doula services.
“As a brand that encourages all parents to care with confidence, we are committed to making care for Black moms accessible and equitable,” says Neha Minj, brand director and head of operations & engagement for Baby Dove. “Doulas can offer advocacy and support to Black birthing individuals who have not received the care they deserve.”
In addition to providing more information about doula support and the birth and postpartum process, Porchia-Albert also wants to clear up myths regarding who can utilize a doula so that more women benefit from the services.
“Some people see doula services as a luxury,” she says. “But more people are realizing that it’s for the regular person who wants their voice heard and wants support during their birthing experience.”
A mother of six, Porchia-Albert knows from both experience and practice how important it is to feel seen and heard during the birthing process. Her delivery experiences prompted her to look for alternatives to the traditional medical system. Equipped with the belief that all women have the right to a healthy pregnancy and delivery, her goal as a doula is to be a voice to those who feel voiceless.
“A doula comes in having the knowledge around medical procedures and understanding the language that is being spoken in the room,” she says. “There is a space of power and privilege that happens within the birthing room, and having a doula there allows for the centering of a person’s humanity and their voice. This prevents some of the things that may normally happen to women from happening.”
She’s referencing the staggering numbers that show a disparity in Black maternal health. Studies show that Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. Multiple factors contribute to these disparities, such as variation in quality healthcare, underlying chronic conditions, and implicit bias.
“When I hear the numbers, it makes me feel as if our collective humanity is not being listened to and centered in healthcare,” she says. “But it makes me more determined to do this work.”
Numerous studies have also shown that having a doula as a part of a woman’s birth plan can dramatically decrease the need for c-sections and epidurals.
Through Ancient Song, Porchia-Albert not only offers doula services but also provides training to those interested in becoming a doula. Additionally, the organization focuses on community education and advocacy.
She credits initiatives like the partnership with Baby Dove as another way to expand her audience and reach more people.
“Partnering with Baby Dove allows me to have a broader range and answer people’s questions,” she says. “And the Black Equity Fund is another way to help make doula services even more accessible to everyone.”
As the maternal health advocate continues to focus on creating spaces for Black women and working to eliminate maternal mortality, she is holding on to her vision for Black women and expectant mothers.
“I want to see a world where Black women have access to midwives, birthing centers, doulas, and proper childcare and resources,” Porchia-Albert says. “Overall, I want Black women to feel loved on, supported, and lifted up. Black mothers deserve it.”
You can catch Chanel Porchia-Albert speaking at the Black Maternal Health Conference September 17-18 in Washington, DC. The event, hosted by Black Mamas Matter Alliance and sponsored by Baby Dove, can be accessed virtually.