Trauma survivors launch bid to fund help for poor mothers, moms of color

Trauma survivors launch bid to fund help for poor mothers, moms of color

BOSTON — When Gloria Agosto moved to Massachusetts, she expected the birth of her fifth child would be better than in her native Puerto Rico.

But Gloria was alone in the delivery room while her husband took care of their other children. She said the nurses were in and out of her room quickly and she barely saw the doctor.

"My experience was so bad that I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of that," Agosto said. "I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t advocate for myself, because I was in so much pain that I couldn’t think about defending myself."

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Gloria says she received an epidural, but immediately started to experience complications.

"I almost died," she said. "They brought me back, but I almost lost her and I already lost a baby."

Gloria's experience is all too common. Maternal death is on the rise in the United States, where 700 moms die every year due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth. Moms of color are three-to-four times more likely to die than their white counterparts.

"I thought I was prepared, but I actually ended up having a lot of trauma," childbirth educator Justine Leach said.

The mother of two told Boston 25 News she's not only a rape trauma survivor, but she also's a birth trauma survivor and she didn't have to be.

"I ended up getting a lot of interventions that weren’t consented to and that only added to that feeling of being out of control," Leach said. "And feeling like birth was mirroring that previous experience of trauma."

Justine and Gloria are working together to change these outcomes for moms by lobbying the state legislature this week for resources "to reduce racial disparities in maternal health...better investigations into fetal and infant deaths...and affordable access to doulas -- certified professionals who focus solely on the emotional support for moms and families."

"We need to make sure that we are looking after all moms," Leach said.

According to the March of Dimes, having a doula can reduce a mom's need for a C-section by more than 50-percent and shorten labor by almost three hours. They can also improve outcomes for women of color, who see the highest levels of post-partum depression.