Before having her first child, Kimberly Seals Allers did her research. She consulted parenting blogs, scoured mom-focused listservs, and read reviews and ratings of the hospitals near her in New York where her doctor was also affiliated. She settled on one where she felt she’d get excellent care, but her experience not only didn’t match her expectations — it left her feeling dismissed, disrespected, and disillusioned. She recalls being pressured into a C-section without explanation, nurses giving her newborn formula against her wishes, and having to fight to have her baby with her in the room. These experiences aren’t uncommon for any mother, but Allers was surprised at the disconnect between the reviews she read and the reality she lived.
“It hadn’t dawned on me that people were going to the same place and not being treated the same way,” she says. “But many of the people on the sites with the ratings were middle-class White women. Black women were not there.”
Black women in America are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women, a disparity the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes to factors including underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. Celebrities like Beyoncé and Serena Williams have brought attention to the risks of childbirth for Black mothers by sharing their own personal stories, and healthcare professionals have recognized the state of Black maternal mortality as a full-blown crisis.
Allers’ ordeal inspired her to create Irth, a mobile app that provides Yelp-like ratings and reviews from Black mothers for physicians, birthing hospitals, pediatricians, and postpartum care. She is part of a wave of Black women entrepreneurs on a mission to improve the birthing experience for their community. “In technology, too many products have been built for us but without us,” says Allers. “I built a team of people of color, for people of color.”