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Elaine Welteroth Founds Birth Fund With Serena Williams’ Backing To Pay Costs For Midwifery Care For Families

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Journalist and TV host Elaine Welteroth and tennis-champion-turned-entrepreneur Serena Williams have joined forces to address the alarming maternal mortality crisis in the United States.

In April 2024, a Time op-ed from the two mother powerhouses was released in alignment with Black Maternal Health Week. Williams has been open about her first childbirth in 2017 being life-threatening and causing her to undergo four surgeries afterward. Moreover, Welteroth has shared her own experience of feeling unsafe with doctors after becoming pregnant in 2021 — leading her in the direction of midwifery care, which she described as “the best decision I ever made,” per a previous Time piece. Now, the two are taking a step further than just raising awareness.

According to the latest Time article, Welteroth has founded Birth Fund, a coalition that works to support families in the U.S. who can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs of midwifery care. The mission behind Birth Fund initially started in December 2023 when Welteroth hosted a birthday fundraiser through Instagram. In just 16 hours, the fundraiser raised almost $16,000 to cover the cost of birth care for two families at Kindred Space LA, a Black-owned midwifery practice in Los Angeles, CA. 

The outlet also details that the practice supported Welteroth during her own childbirth.

Alongside Welteroth, Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian; John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen; singer and actress Kelly Rowland; models Ashley Graham and Karlie Kloss; and more are part of Birth Fund’s founding family funders. Additionally, SoFi serves as a strategic corporate partner.

As Welteroth and Williams’ op-ed notes, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that expanding access to midwifery care “could avert more than 80% of all maternal deaths, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths.” With this in mind, Birth Fund makes it clear that its goal is to provide access to funding and education and to emphasize that the crisis at hand is a human rights issue.

“Our birth experiences are proof that no one is insulated from falling through the cracks of a broken system,” the women wrote in the op-ed. “And while even wealthy Black women are currently dying at similar rates to poor white women, we need to be careful not to frame this as just a Black woman’s problem. Because it isn’t. Nor is this a poor people’s problem.”

They continued, “Charles Johnson, whose wife, Kira, died in 2016 following a scheduled cesarean section, said it best: this crisis of care is ‘a human rights issue.’ It impacts us all. And it’s taking too long to fix what’s broken. We are ready to tackle this issue head-on. And we hope families—and companies—all over the country will join us.”

 

 

As Welteroth and Williams’ efforts to take action amplify in the fight against this health crisis, increasing access to midwifery care is one big step in the right direction, they say, in reducing preventable deaths of mothers.

The American College of Nurse-Midwives reports that the United States employs approximately four midwives per 1,000 live births. With more than 3.7 million live births annually, a minimum of 22,000 midwives are needed to meet the WHO goal of at least six midwives per 1,000 live births. 

Per an Instagram post, Welteroth’s Birth Fund will match every dollar donated up to $100,000 as the movement grows.

To learn more about the coalition, click here.





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