'Lower the death rate': Native doula training comes to Missoula

Nora Mabie

Channa Walz said she almost died when she gave birth to her oldest daughter in Missoula.

“I was left in pain because one of my nurses called me a ‘drug seeker,’” Walz said.

“I almost died from racism,” she said. “It’s really dangerous.”

Walz, who is Little Shell, is not alone. Her negative birth experience is what led her to the University of Montana on Tuesday morning for a free, four-day Indigenous doula training.

Doulas facilitate physical and emotional support before, during and after birth. They also help people navigate the health care system and advocate for their own needs.

Severe maternal morbidity refers to the unintended outcomes of labor and delivery that result in short- or long-term consequences for a pregnant person’s health. Nearly all cases are preventable. Yet Native Americans in Montana have triple the risk of severe maternal morbidity compared with their white counterparts.

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Risk is related to who you are and where you live. Experts say disparate health outcomes are the result of various factors, including economic stability, education, social context and environment.

Like many of the women who attended the training, Walz is

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