Black women are nearly four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than white women, but a birthing center in South Los Angeles hopes to change that.

Columnist Sandy Banks wrote about Kindred Space LA and how the center is building a community of support for expecting mothers.

In an interview for "LA Times Today," Sandy joined host Lisa McRee with more.

What You Need To Know

  • Black women are nearly four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than white women

  • The birthing center Kindred Space in South LA is hoping to change that

  • At Kindred Space, families can be part of the birthing process, and laboring women are encouraged to voice their wishes and unpack their fears

  • If problems arise, women can be quickly transported to the obstetric center at nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, which has its own midwife-driven birthing protocols

Banks worked with LA Times photographer Dania Maxwell who was pregnant while covering the story.

"I was honored to be asked to participate, and Dania started following these women when she was looking for a story that wasn't sad and wasn't about COVID-19. She stumbled on their GoFundMe and she took the video and the fabulous photographs. She also became so immersed in what was going on with them. She also got pregnant during that time herself that she wanted to do more. She brought me in, and it was an incredible experience for me to see how something so beloved in the community and so broad-based hadn't been discovered before by us. It's a remarkable group of women and even men that are participating, and I hope that it can be an example of what can be done even beyond South Los Angeles," Banks said.

Allegra Hill and Kimberly Durdin are both licensed midwives, and they created Kindred Space LA in 2018.

"They are both very kind of holistic people and felt a calling to be midwives from an early age. They do a lot of networking and do a lot of listening. Before they created Kindred Space, they had a whole holistic kind of family center that they created, and it was to teach people how to be doulas, help people explore midwifery, and help families that were struggling. They had parenting classes. They had groups for men to talk about being fathers. They are activists, but they think of everyone as their family," Banks added.

Durdin and Hill are hoping to open the space up when the pandemic ends to provide more community support.

"They hope to reopen the place. They have a gardening spot, libraries and cooking facilities. They're hoping to reopen. That could become kind of a gathering spot and to be the nexus of the holistic birth movement in South Los Angeles," Banks said.

Banks said the post-birth horror story of tennis icon Serena Williams resonated so profoundly among Black women. Williams suffered blood clots in her lungs after giving birth to her daughter by cesarean section in 2017.  

"Yes, women like Serena William, Allyson Felix had struggles, and there's been a lot of research into it, and it's hard to pin down because it's not a socioeconomic issue. They found that Black women with college degrees and good jobs are still more likely to die than a white woman who's a high school dropout. There needs to be more research done into that, and I hope that's the next step of this, beyond how we will support and help these women. We're also going to promote more research into what is happening and why this is so dire."

Banks spoke to people in the community, and they say Kindred Space is significant to them.

"Even the midwives Allegra and Kimberly were surprised when they started their GoFundMe. The contributions began to pour in $20, $10, from women who said they were so grateful to know that somebody cares. And that's what convinced them to keep pushing even when COVID made it hard. And it's had a great response, and it's a gift; it's a resource."

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