Journey Birth and Wellness supports pregnant women and new moms

In January of 2020, Shanna Bradley had a dream of bringing her extensive expertise and training as a birth doula back to her hometown of Fort Wayne. Even with the pandemic, her vision was tempered, but not lost. With start-up funding from the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, Journey Birth and Wellness was launched. In the first year, they used virtual technology and trained doulas, including several who spoke Spanish and Burmese languages focusing on the refugee and immigrant community.  

Two years later, Shanna explains, “We also have amazing Black doulas who are truly changing the narrative on birth and breastfeeding in our local Black community. Sixty-four percent of our clients are Black. There are many local Black couples interested in: more education to understand their birthing options, knowing how to cope during labor, learning how the partner can play an active role, and more. Many more Black doulas are also expressing an interest in being trained, as they feel it is very empowering for them and new parents.” 

Angela Stanley, vulnerable populations program officer at St. Joe Foundation, explained the importance of building a local doula network. “Allen County has consistently had higher infant mortality rates than the rest of the state and even the country. There are a lot of contributing factors including limited access to care, maternal stress, and comorbidities that must be addressed in ways that foster trust, respect, and better health outcomes. Doulas can play a significant role in that. Research has repeatedly shown that by providing information, as well as physical and emotional support, doulas help bridge the communication gaps between mothers and healthcare providers, ultimately leading to better birth outcomes and decreased parental anxiety.”

Meg Distler, executive director of the St. Joe Foundation, added that, “We are proud of our investments into this start-up non-profit. It continues the legacy of our sponsor, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, in assuring that all mothers in our community, including Black, Brown and Immigrants, have access to quality and affordable health and wellness care.