Berkeley County First Steps has received a $2,500 grant from the New Morning Foundation to expand its doula contraceptive education services within the Choose Well initiative of the Foundation.
The new funding will enable the nonprofit’s doula program to expand from providing individual labor support to women throughout the Berkeley County community to also offering workshops and one-on-one sessions to women about different methods and types of contraceptives, including their effectiveness and any contraindications to their use, as well as assistance creating a family life plan.
Richie Simone Lee is Berkeley County First Steps’ doula, defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth. According to a May 1998 article by the New York Times, research shows that with a doula, childbirth goes more smoothly, labor is 25 percent shorter, the need for epidural pain relief is 60 percent less, and the Caesarean section rate is reduced by half.
In addition to the above, Lee says, “I am currently also on hand to provide childbirth education and breastfeeding support to a population of families who may otherwise lack access to these resources.”
Now, with the new grant, Lee says she’ll be able to assist many more women across Berkeley County in more ways. “My health reproductive workshops will be open to any interested person within Berkeley County who is available to attend, but primarily I will be helping teens and young adults,” she says. “We’ll have an open dialogue during these interactive sessions, which will be culturally competent as well, to freely discuss issues and concerns regarding reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections, and myths regarding birth control and pregnancy.
An extra benefit to Berkeley County women will be individual guidance from Lee. “I’ll also be on hand to help them devise a family life plan to help them plan their family now, in line with their life goals and preferences,” she says. “I will then be able to refer them to a partnering clinic, which can provide same-day appointments in some cases, to ensure access to the desired contraceptive or the placement of it.”
The workshops will be held in a variety of locations across the county. Any organization, location, or individual interested in hosting a workshop can also request one at berkeleyfirststeps.com/programs-and-resources.
The new funds are sorely needed and much appreciated, says Berkeley County First Steps Executive Director Adrienne Troy-Frazier. “According to the most recent South Carolina pregnancy risk assessment data, South Carolina’s rate of unintended pregnancies is above the national average, with more than half of women categorizing their previous pregnancy as unplanned,” she says. “This funding from the Foundation’s Choose Well contraceptive access initiative will help improve this statistic for the women and families we serve by increasing access to quality, affordable contraceptive services in our county.”
But the benefits of the new funding and expanded services will go beyond decreasing the number of unplanned pregnancies in Berkeley County, says Lee. “Informing individuals about the choices available to them in terms of reproductive health is imperative not only because we can reduce that number, but also because these women can begin to feel empowered to make informed decisions about their own health and intent to start families at a time that’s in line with their needs and preferences.”