More Chicago pregnant women will have access to resources and answers to their pregnancy questions after a new text messaging service launched recently.
The Cord, a free news and information service created by City Bureau reporters, aims to improve black pregnant women’s and moms’ access to information.
City Bureau fellow Janaya Greene said she and other fellows, Camille Powell, Emeline Posner and Sarah Conway, created the service – which allows women to text questions – after they discussed maternal health and spoke to women on the West Side about their lack of resources.
"Somebody I talked to, she was saying that she didn’t really trust the doctors that she went to, and she felt that they couldn’t answer her questions adequately," Greene said. "We had to think about: What’s another way that we can bring information to people that’s easier to access?"
By providing a texting option, she said, "we think it makes the information sharing a little bit more personable."
Black women in Illinois are six times as likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition as white women, according to a 2018 Health Department report that analysed the cases of 93 women who died in 2015. Advocates and researchers have noted racism can increase stress on the body and make women vulnerable to not having pain taken seriously.
Black Maternal Health Week, April 11–17, was declared by US Senator Kamala Harris and Rep. Alma Adams to raise awareness and advocacy around the high rate of deaths among black women before, during and after pregnancy. Adams and Rep. Lauren Underwood from Illinois created the Black Maternal Health Caucus, aimed at making the issue a national priority.
The congresswomen noted that the United States has the worst maternal death rates in the developed world, at 18 deaths per 100,000 live births, with the rate much higher among black women – 40 deaths per 100,000 live births.
"The statistics around black maternal health are horrifying, and they haven’t improved in 30 years," Underwood said in a statement announcing the caucus.
Chicago women who want to subscribe to The Cord enter their phone number at bit.ly/thecordtext. Subscribers will receive resources and tips, and can also directly text to share their stories and ask questions. Reporters will also share articles.
"We want it to be a two-way conversation," Greene said.
They hope that, within this conversation, they can provide resources that women want. In both conversations with Chicago women and through texts they’ve already received, many had questions about doulas, for example. They also will give people information on where to go for services, such as Chicago Birth Workers of Colour or Chicago Volunteer Doulas.
State health officials were so concerned by the number of women dying in Illinois that the Health Department convened a committee to study more than 650 women who died within one year of pregnancy since 2008.
Recommendations included ensuring women are connected with a primary care or obstetrics physician, and are scheduled for a postpartum visit. The committee encouraged new moms to tell providers any new or emerging symptoms – even if they think those symptoms are unrelated to pregnancy or feel they are not tied to a significant problem. – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service