ACMS Foundation Feature: MAYA

“A Rock in a Storm”: Doula Care (and more) at MAYA Organization

Kate Pendlebury, Development Director

Welcome to MAYA! And welcome to the world of birth equity. You may be familiar with the 2019 report produced by the Gender Equity Commission of the City of Pittsburgh, which described the dire outcomes that local Black birthing people face. Pittsburgh’s Black mothers have higher fetal, infant, and maternal mortality rates than their peers in most U.S. cities – and considerably higher rates than their white counterparts in Pittsburgh. On top of that, they frequently report experiences of prejudice, neglect, improper pain management, and even physical abuse in their obstetric care.

MAYA Organization exists to challenge those experiences and outcomes. Our mission is to empower BIPOC and marginalized birthing people and birthworkers, and create positive change in the systems that impact them. We are involved in a number of initiatives to educate practitioners about obstetric racism and strategize for methods to improve conditions for Black birthing people. At the same time, the perinatal education, doula care, and mental health counseling that we provide empowers the birthing people we serve to know their bodies, advocate for themselves, and defend their needs.

Perhaps our most critical service in this regard is doula support. Research shows that doula care improves childbirth outcomes and increases overall quality of care received during labor and delivery. It reduces rates of Cesarean deliveries, prematurity and illness in newborns, and the likelihood of postpartum depression. More significantly, the companionship of a doula during labor, delivery, and the first hours postpartum can reduce experiences of obstetric racism.

At MAYA, our doulas are truly the re for our program participants: listening, advocating, providing “a rock in a storm,” as one mom put it. They not only provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support throughout the birthing process, but are also available to support clients with other needs: for instance, accompanying them at doctors’ appointments or assisting with the completion of paperwork. Our moms rave about our doulas. One wrote:



Shamel (a MAYA doula) was perfect. She is an excellent listener and advocate. She made my daughter’s birth go so much better than what I planned. I’m glad God put her in my path and in my birthing room for me and my child.





Last year, our doulas attended 64 births across the city of Pittsburgh. 94% of our birthing people had their babies at 38 weeks or later, 94% of babies were a healthy birth weight, and 70% delivered vaginally.

Our much-needed work is made possible by the generosity of our funders. In November, 2023, the Allegheny County Medical Society Foundation (ACMSF) awarded MAYA a grant of $12,000, supporting the salaries of the people who make it all happen: our devoted educators, doulas, and counselors. These funds contribute to perinatal classes, doula care, and free mental health counseling for the 550+ pregnant and postpartum clients we see in a year.

MAYA’s online prenatal and postpartum classes are offered in English and Spanish across a whole range of topics, from Healthy Pregnancy and Childbirth Preparation to Infant Feeding and Postpartum Mental Health. (If you’re curious, you can check out this week’s classes at our website.) About one third of MAYA’s perinatal participants are immigrants from Latin America, many of whom speak little English, and our Spanish-language programming responds to the needs of a community delivering their babies in an unfamiliar medical system. Our Latine mentors and doulas are also guides and interpreters, providing connections to needed services and supporting moms as they encounter unexpected facets of birth in the USA.

Our body of services also includes mental health care for incarcerated parents – and we were recently contracted to provide perinatal groups and doula care for women incarcerated in Allegheny County Jail. As is the case with our perinatal services, we follow the principles of trauma-informed care, support participants in making their voices heard, and champion them as experts in their own lives.

Want to get involved? There are several ways you can support MAYA:

  • Make a donation! MAYA is a small nonprofit, and we work daily to ensure that our high quality services are available to the people who need them. Your tax-deductible gift makes that work a little easier.
  • Donate in-kind! We are always looking for gently used baby clothes up to 12 months, maternity wear, baby equipment (please, only new car seats and sleepers), toys, and books. Our pantry also includes new hygiene and bathroom items, and baby formula.
  • Join our board! We value your expertise. MAYA encourages BIPOC candidates to apply, but we welcome all interest.

You can contact me, Kate Pendlebury, at [email protected] or (412) 628-2938 for more information or assistance. And don’t forget to check out our website, at