Birthing hope: The fight for Black maternal health



Destinee Miles Labor and Delivery Nurse

Black women disproportionately experience unfavorable pregnancy outcomes compared to women of other racial and ethnic groups. In fact, Black women are nearly three times more likely to die during pregnancy or delivery than any other race. That’s why Destinee Miles, a clinical nurse in labor and delivery at Riley Hospital for Children, dedicates her career to advocating for the health of Black mothers.

Experiencing a traumatic birth herself, Miles knows firsthand the complications that can occur beginning as early as prenatal care all the way through postpartum. In her role, Miles sees some of the most adverse patient outcomes. After learning about two Black maternal deaths in her unit, Miles found herself asking “why are we dying?”

Destinee Miles Labor and Delivery Nurse

Underlying chronic conditions, quality of healthcare and implicit bias are some factors that contribute to maternal deaths. Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) is recognized every year in April in efforts to bring awareness to action in improving Black maternal health. Because 80% of maternal deaths are preventable, it’s important to recognize warning signs, provide timely treatment and deliver quality care.

“My fight has been and will always be for Black moms,” says Miles. “BMHW is important because it shows that the health of Black mother’s matter. The call for proper education is at the forefront.”

Destinee Miles Labor and Delivery Nurse

Miles and other Riley team members are ensuring that moms feel safe and have the necessary resources when they come in for appointments. When visiting the labor and delivery unit at Riley, you’ll find a board that outlines the importance of their health being a focus before, during and after their pregnancy. There are guides sent home with moms to help start conversations with their providers if they’re experiencing any maternal warning signs.

“We are working to shorten the knowledge gap many moms face,” says Miles. “It’s important to share stories, remind them that they know their body best and to share what they can expect on this journey.”

Everyone plays a role in making sure mothers and their babies make it home safely. When Miles encounters a mother that might need assistance, she serves as a liaison to IU Health social workers, those that work in chaplaincy and even therapists to connect with the mothers. Most importantly, Miles serves as a companion and assures mothers that they are not on this journey alone. “Your health matters, your mental health matters,” says Miles as she encounters each mother. “You need to have a healthy mother to have a healthy baby.”

Destinee Miles Labor and Delivery Nurse

While the fight for Black maternal health can be tough, Miles sees the reward in it every day. Growing up, Miles spent a lot of time at Riley as her mother was a pediatric intensive care unit nurse. Seeing her mother’s compassionate care trickled down and led Miles to work in labor and delivery, and ultimately spearheaded her passion for Black maternal health. As Miles continues throughout her career, she is committed to combat the maternal mortality rate in Indiana and hopes to see Indiana’s rank of third worst for maternal mortality change. “I do see a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Miles.