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The JUST Birth Network

  • Season: Season 4
  • Posted On:

Going beyond healthy babies.

An alarming fact about childbirth in America is that after years of decline, the maternal mortality rate has risen for the past 10 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 800 and 900 women die in the U.S. each year from complications of childbirth. Black women are up to four times more likely to die during or as a result of childbirth than non-Hispanic white women.

In Seattle, an innovative program combines world-class obstetric care with doula support, cultural understanding, community connection, and respect for family traditions. The program is led by a fourth-generation birth doula named Sauleiha Akangbe.

"Healthy mom and healthy baby is a bare minimum," Akangbe says. "Can we please get a happy mom, a fulfilled mom, an empowered mom, a baby that's going home to know that mom is going be able to take care of me afterward because she didn't have to go through all this traumatic stuff when she had me?" 

On today's program, conversations about the JUST Birth Network between Sauleiha Akangbe and her sister, Safia Alakbar -- and with host Seán Collins, who also talks with Dr. Emily Norland who is System Chief for Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Swedish Medical Centers in Seattle and the Chief of OB/GYN at the Swedish First Hill Campus.

Transcript of The JUST Birth Network episode.

You can hear more of Sauleiha and Safia's story here.

The Justice Unity Support Trust, or JUST Birth Network was created to empower and improve the birthing experience of Black, African-American, African, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander birthing women and people from across the sex and gender identity spectrum.

The network includes dedicated birth and postpartum doulas, childbirth educators and inpatient cultural navigators, who provide patients and their families with expert care and guidance throughout their pregnancy and birthing experience.



  • Sauleiha Akangbe
  • Safia Alakbar
  • Emily Norland M.D.
  • Seán Collins


  • doulas
  • just birth network
  • cultural navigators
  • humanizing childbirth
  • infant mortality
  • maternal mortality