Supporting COVID-Positive Pregnant and Parenting People: Community Perspectives, Challenges, and Solutions

The existing health care system actively harms Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) birthing people. Racial discrimination and bias contributed to both disrespectful care and adverse birth outcomes. Due to the pandemic, efforts to flatten the curve limited the support systems created to combat racism in birthing spaces. For instance, although doulas have been touted as a solution to prevent Black maternal mortality, those same doulas have been prevented from providing in-hospital labor and delivery services due to COVID-19 restrictions. BIPOC pregnant people are doubly harmed due to existing and new restrictions.

The Community Engagement Research Incubator and Strategy Hub (CERISH) launched the PRIORITY-VOICE study to better understand COVID-positive birthing people’s experiences navigating perinatal care during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify both challenges and solutions.

People who are pregnant or have recently been pregnant have an increased risk of severe illness as a result of contracting COVID-19. While there are censuses underway tracking the number of birthing people infected by COVID-19 and their birth outcomes, we already know that there are tangible ways in which pandemic precautions have changed the healthcare delivery models and harmed perinatal practices.

At this Collaboratory, researchers and community advisory council members shared data from the PRIORITY-VOICE Study followed by a panel discussion about on-the-ground challenges and solutions to improve the BIPOC birthing experience.

*The acronym PRIORITY-VOICE stands for Pregnancy Coronavirus Outcomes Registry-Visioning Opportunities to Improve Healthcare and Equity.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe how the pandemic changed COVID-positive birthing people’s access to maternity care.
  • Identity multilevel challenges and then solutions to improve birthing people’s maternity care experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Share community-based strategies to support BIPOC birthing people who are navigating maternity care during and post the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sponsored by CERISH

CERISH’s vision is to develop ideas that can serve as a foundation for a necessary Black envisioned, led, and operationalized infrastructure. Learn more about CERISH at 

We are encouraging attendees to donate and support Roots of Labor Doula Collective (RLDC). 

Based in Oakland on Lisjan Ohlone lands, Roots of Labor Birth Collective (RLBC) supports BIQTPOC in every state of reproductive life, uplifting and empowering one another and our communities in our respective ancestral traditions. 

Every Monday, since 2015 to 2020 shelter in place, Santa Rita Jail (SRJ) doulas made in-person prenatal and postpartum visits. RLBC also supported labor, birth, and immediate postpartum for those who deliver in custody, who would otherwise not have any outside support. They are fundraising to support reinstating inside SRJ doula support services again. 

$2,672.20 - The cost of doula insurance coverage to be in compliance with new Alameda County regulations

$8,736 - The cost of 4 doulas attending SRJ every Monday for 3-months

$1,750 - The administrative costs for reinstatement and first 3-months before county contract begins

Connect: [email protected]


Why are doulas needed at Santa Rita Jail? 

  • Of the 2+ million women* jailed each year, 80% of them are mothers**
  • How many people deliver while in custody each year? 2-7 births at SRJ
  • These birthing people would otherwise only have the presence of hands-off sheriff officers
  • Jail is a transitory place, and our SRJ doulas would meet with 50+ new pregnant + bodyfeeding people a year
  • SRJ doulas offer trauma-informed care, connect folks to community resources, and demystify that doula care is a luxury service only afford to white affluence

* All jail data is extremely gendered, unless back by LGBTQ institutions — and there isn't parent specific data backed by the latter yet.

** Prison Policy Initiative Data


Brittany D. Chambers, PhD, MPH | PRIORITY-VOICE Principal Investigator

Dr. Brittany Chambers is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Ecology Department at UC Davis and an affiliated faculty in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF. Dr. Chambers obtained her MPH in Health Promotion from Fresno State University and a PhD in Community Health Education from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her work focuses on understanding sexual and reproductive health inequities through examining the impact of individual and structural discrimination across multiple life domains.

Nothing to disclose

Helen Arega, MA| PRIORITY-VOICE Program Manager

Helen Arega holds a MA in Urban Affairs and Public Policy with a concentration on Reproductive Health. Helen is the current Program Director for the PRIORITY VOICE Research Study and the MILK Research Lab at University of California San Francisco; where she engages in meaningful community engaged research to support, educate and advocate for women throughout their reproductive life span. Helen is a Full Spectrum Community Based Doula supporting birthing people and BIPOC communities, ultimately, co-founding Roots of Labor Birth Collective. Helen looks forward to engaging in research that examines the role of holistic health and alternative healing modalities as it relates to supporting BIOPOC birthing people.   

Nothing to disclose




Nakeitra Burse, DrPH, CHES | Ridgeland, MI

Public Health Professional Consultant: Six Dimensions LLC

Dr. Nakeitra Burse is the Owner of Six Dimensions, a public health research, development and practice firm focused on health equity and social justice. Dr. Burse is passionate about improving health outcomes for Black mothers. She is the producer of "Laboring with Hope," a short documentary addressing Black maternal mortality.

Nothing to disclose

Deborah Dauda | Los Angeles, CA

Community Member

Deborah Chat Dauda (she/her) is a mother/dancer/ educator/activist and a Ph.D. student in the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development (SGISD) at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She holds Master's degrees in Public Health (MPH) and African Studies (MA) from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her work as a Black Feminist researcher, scholar-activist, and practitioner is dedicated to the flourishing of Black women and girls. Her current research project examines the radical self-care practices of Black women in West Africa and the U.S. 

Nothing to disclose


Jo Ann Allen | Chicago, IL

IBCLC and Research Specialist: Chicago Breastfeeding Taskforce

Jo Ann Allen has over 4 decades of experience in maternal and child health. She currently works as a Research Specialist for the University of Illinois Chicago, College of Nursing in Women’s Health. She is also a Staff Nurse at University of Chicago in the Woman’s Care Center. Jo Ann’s worked as Healthy Steps Specialist as part of national early intervention program. Jo Ann has been an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.

Nothing to disclose

Julia Marynus | Freeport, IL

Public Health Nurse: Stephenson County Health Department

Julia Marynus, while semi-retired, continues work as a Maternal Child Health Nurse at Stephenson County Health Department (Illinois). Career accomplishments include public health support/measures for use of Edinburgh screens with prenatal/pregnant clients; ability for children to have/hold own asthma emergency inhalers while in school; and implementation of the first Universal Newborn program within a health department—Family Connects Illinois.

Nothing to disclose

Tamara Gardner | New Mexico

Hospital Provider: University of New Mexico

Tamara Gardner is a Certified Nurse-Midwife practicing at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. She is studying to be a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and plans to incorporate psychotherapy and medication management into my practice. Tamara is a co-creator of the UNM Hospital Volunteer Birth Companion. She identifies as a Black and Jewish Woman. She and her husband have 5 children, and last year, she had the honor of “catching” our first grandchild.

Nothing to disclose

Lynetta West | Birmingham, AL

Community-Based Organization Member: ConnectionHealth

Lynetta West is a Certified Community Health Worker who resides in Birmingham, Alabama. Over the past 30 years, she has worked in various positions in Health Care, Administration, Recruitment, Peer Coach and Women’s Ministry. Her passion is advocating for women to increase their self-esteem, navigate life challenges and create a cohesive support team.

Nothing to disclose

Kaiayo Shatteen | Oakland, CA

Apprentice Midwife, Reproductive Justice Advocate, LGBTQ2S+ Equity Consultant

Kaiayo Shatteen (They/Them/Theirs/She/Her/Hers) is a Black Indigenous, Queer Mother of two young adults. They are blessed to reside on the Unceded Land of the Lisjan (Ohlone) People where they are a Reproductive Justice Advocate & Consultant, Apprentice Midwife, a LGBTQI+ Equity Consultant and a Recovery Motivational Speaker. They have a deep commitment to ending the injustice that puts BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) and LGBTQI+ communities at the bottom when it comes to positive birth outcomes, access to inclusive health care, and equity in the workplace. This work is an answer to Ancestral calling and they are guided by their Ancestors daily.

Nothing to disclose