Irth, as in Birth but without the B for bias, a new digital platform to address a root cause of the Black maternal and infant mortality crises—racism and bias in care, launched in the Apple and Google Play app stores today. The app allows Black and brown women and birthing people of color to search and leave reviews of their OB/GYN, birthing hospitals, postpartum care, and pediatricians, up to the baby’s first year.
Inspired by her own birth experience, Kimberly Seals Allers, a former senior editor at Essence, five-time author, and maternal health advocate created Irth to leverage consumer power to bring transparency and public accountability to the treatment of Black and brown women in the medical system and to provide a front-end decision-making tool for pregnant women and new parents.
“When I had my first child, I asked white co-workers and friends for recommendations, read all the “Best of” lists for hospitals, and was excited to deliver at a highly-ranked institution. Instead, I left feeling dismissed, disrespected, and traumatized. Exactly opposite to what my white peers had experienced. At that time in my life, I was not yet married and was finishing graduate school, and was therefore on student health insurance. And that’s how I was treated—like an unwed Black woman with basic insurance. I never forgot that,” says Seals Allers.
Seals Allers is also an international speaker who has led community engagement projects to address birth and breastfeeding disparities in various U.S. cities. This, along with her personal experience, led her to create this much-needed app.
“People are not being treated the same way even at the same place. Countless studies point to the prevalence of racism and bias in provider care. Yet Black and brown birthing people, who are disproportionately dying during and after childbirth within the hospital medical system, have no way of knowing how someone like them experienced a doctor or provider. We deserve a public platform to share with others where we are receiving good care,” says Seals Allers.
On the back end, Irth builds the first national repository of experiences of care from Black and brown birthing bodies, turning those qualitative experiences into quantitative data to provide real-time, patient-reported insights to hospitals and providers. Together, Irth’s data will educate the field on perceived experiences of bias and racism, better inform current anti-bias training efforts and serve as the foundation of a new suite of educational tools, credentials, and hospital accreditation—all rooted in the lived experience of care.
Compelling research from Stanford University and other organizations demonstrate that implicit bias, concerning your race, class, gender identification, marital status, or even sexual orientation can impact the care and treatment you receive. According to the most recent Listening to Mothers national childbearing survey (2018), “Black women, Hispanic women and women of other races/ethnicities disproportionately experience births with severe maternal morbidity (66%, 10% and 15% higher, respectively), relative to white women.”