• Team BAME Maternity

The timeless wisdom of a Doula in an age of Covid

Updated: Jan 5

Having a doula present during birth is “like walking a mountain path with a guide”. That mountain, however, can be a lot steeper for parents from a BAME background Mars Lord (left) tells Bronte Carvalho

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought in to the mainstream on the disproportionate impact the virus has had on BAME patients. For Doula or “professional birth companion” Mars Lord the epidemic has underlined what vulnerable and marginalised groups have always known.

She draws parallels with the outcry that followed publication of the now-infamous 2018 MMBRACE-UK report, which revealed between that black women were more than five times more likely than white women to die during birth, and Asian women were more than twice as likely. “Black birth workers have been saying this for decades.”

“Black birth workers have been saying this for decades”

“We need to recognise that pregnant black women are dying at five times the rate of pregnant white women – not because of a few extra layers of melanin in their skin, not because they’re black – but because they’re seen and treated as black. Being perceived as a black woman puts you at higher risk. The biggest problem now is how to address that going forwards.

“When we discovered that women who smoked tended to have smaller birthweight babies, we put resources and education and time into encouraging women not to smoke. Over time, birth weights increased. When we discovered that babies laying on their back were less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome, we started the Back to Sleep campaign and within a year those infant deaths had dropped by 75%.”

“So, when we see that black women are so much more likely to die during the perinatal period, what do we do? We need to do more research – yes - but the answer can’t simply be ‘because they’re black’. It’s always easier to blame the black body than to look at the system.”

It’s a conversation that desperately needs to be had

It’s a conversation that desperately needs to be had. “PhDs are being written and put on shelves, the evidence is there that black women are disproportionately dying during the perinatal period, but we’re not seeing the actions. The current approach of the NHS is ‘continuity of care’, which is great – so long as your carer is not a racist.”

The solution, Mars insists, is to take a long look at the system itself. “If you are raised with and taught by a system that is structurally broken, healthcare professionals will continue to make the same mistakes. We need to do more than just research, we need to tackle the system that consistently enables these statistics to happen in the first place.”

About Mars Lord

Award winning doula and birth activist Mars Lord will be presenting a paper at this year’s BAME Birthing With Colour Conference.

Ms Lord has been a birth keeper for over a decade. Her goal is to see the ‘colouring in of the landscape of birth’ and to uncover out the reasons for the maternal and neonatal morbidity rates amongst the BAME community.

About BAME Birthing With Colour

BAME Birthing With Colour is a one day conference organised by registered charity The Brun Bear Foundation in association with a top team of healthcare professionals led by Helen Knower, Director of Midwifery, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

The conference’s objectives are to draw together medical professionals, policy makers, the third sector, community groups and mothers themselves for an outstanding programme that helps shape, deliver, direct and influence higher standards of BAME Maternity care.

Proceeds from the day – which is being organised on an entirely voluntary basis – will support relevant medical and other causes.

The 2021 event will take place on Saturday 6 November. For more information including speaking, attendance, sponsorship, media and supporting organisation opportunities please email

To secure your ticket please visit

Author: Bronte Carvalho

Subeditor: Edwin Lampert

73 views0 comments