Pregnancy is an exciting time for expectant parents, but it can also be lonely, confusing and scary. For Black expectant parents, the nine months they spend waiting for their baby can be filled with even more anxiety. According to the CDC, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women. But a new app is hoping to help make pregnancy a lot less scary and a lot more exciting for Black moms. Spora Mommas is a virtual program designed to help moms of color navigate their pregnancy journey with confidence. From creating a birth plan to learning about postpartum wellness, Spora Mommas is with their moms every step of the way.
Founder Dan Miller got the idea after seeing the negative experiences Black women who are close to him, his mother and grandmother, had with the healthcare system up close. “Towards the end of 2019, I was thinking about my own lived experience in terms of my loved ones, and I kept coming back to inequities and disparities that exist in healthcare,” he said. “I was looking back at the challenges my mother had in carrying the oldest of my two younger brothers. And because I was around 10 at the time, I had no idea that these things were impacting her at all. It wasn’t until I was telling her about [Spora], that she opened up and told me about a lot of the difficulties she had.”
Through his research, Miller says he learned that nearly 60 percent of maternal mortality and morbidity cases are preventable. He knew he wanted to be a part of the solution, so he put together a team to develop what would become the Spora Mommas curriculum.“It got me thinking broadly about so many influential women in my life. And hearing the story about my mom’s pregnancy really moved me to try to unpack ways we can support women of color through pregnancy to do what we can to decrease [racial] inequities and disparities and maternal mortality and morbidity more specifically,” he said.
Spora Mommas accepts expectant moms into their digital program who are early in their first trimester. After filling out a short online survey, accepted moms receive their Mommas Kit, which includes devices to track their vitals at home, including blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. Moms receive a PDF readout of their vitals. So if they need to go to urgent care or the ER, they have their information handy. This allows them to better advocate for themselves, which Miller says is a huge component of the Spora Mommas program.
Spora Mommas participants are also paired with a doula. Although they will not be present at the birth, they support the moms through one-on-one video sessions throughout their pregnancy. All of the Spora Momma doulas are doulas of color. And Miller says they have created cultural competence training that helps their providers offer culturally-sensitive care for all of their patients. “We’re onboarding our second cohort [of moms] right now,” Miller said. “We have close to 100 mamas participating, and we’re super excited about all of the interest,” he said.
Here is one testimonial from a happy Spora Momma participant:
“My doula is very thorough, compassionate and supportive. She clearly knows her stuff, and she’s a great and engaging teacher. She makes me feel heard and never gets bothered by all my questions, even the ones I think are silly. She is personable, and I appreciate her knowledge and skill set, as I know, without a doubt, I can trust her. I love that I get to engage with other Momma’s of color who understand my journey.” - Brianna B., Kansas City, MO
In addition to the physical support, Spora Momma members are connected to Bump Groups, which include mothers in the same stage of pregnancy. Members of the groups share their experiences and provide support to one another. The Spora Village, moderated by doctors and healthcare providers, is an online community in the app where moms can upload questions whenever they arise.
Miller says Spora Mommas is clear about being a supplemental component of the pregnancy experience and is in no way meant to replace a doctor or a midwife. But he believes that providing as much support to a Black expectant mom as possible can help eliminate some of the disparities that exist. “There’s actually quite a bit we can do virtually around connections to address the isolation that tends to happen [during pregnancy],” Miller said. “We just wanted to make sure that we provide the structure for folks to connect and access information whenever they need it.”