Black women-owned health startup Birth by Us receives funding to scale its operations

BY Ben Ebuka Oji February 9, 2024 7:26 AM EDT
Mercy Oladipo and Ijeoma Uche
Mercy Oladipo and Ijeoma Uche, founders/owners of Birth By Us. Credit: Subject

According to the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every year in the United States, numerous individuals lose their lives during pregnancy or within the first year after childbirth. Additionally, countless others experience unexpected complications during labor and delivery, resulting in significant short- or long-term health issues.

Most worrisome is the racial disparities prevalent in the maternal healthcare system. Shockingly, Black women are three times more likely to succumb to a pregnancy-related cause compared to their White counterparts. This disparity can be attributed to various factors, including disparities in the quality of healthcare provided, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. Furthermore, social determinants of health hinder individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups from accessing equitable opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional well-being.

This raises the crucial question of why health disparities persist and, more importantly, what measures are being taken to address them. It is imperative for both healthcare providers and the healthcare systems to actively confront this issue.

This ugly reality is the driving force that has led two Black female founders Ijeoma Uche and Mercy Oladipo, to launch Birth By Us in 2021 to offer comprehensive support and resources to Black women throughout their journey from prenatal to postpartum.

According to Oladipo, Black women suffer “some of the worst outcomes and experiences.”

The primary objective of this health education nonprofit is to provide Black mothers and expectant mothers with the necessary tools and information to adequately prepare for medical appointments. Uche and Oladipo, the founders of this organization, also provide daily wellness assessments, valuable health knowledge, and a comprehensive directory to assist in distinguishing between potential concerns and typical bodily changes, all accessible through their platform.

“We essentially empower women of color to shape their own birthing experience while giving providers and hospital systems necessary insights to best support their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experience, Uche said in an interview with The Brown Daily Herald.

Uche’s inspiration to establish Birth By Us stemmed from her time as an undergraduate student at Brown University. During this period, she enrolled in courses and conducted research that shed light on the inequalities in maternal health across various communities, particularly within the Black community.

Oladipo stated that Birth By Us was formed because Black women “face one of the worst outcomes and the worst experiences when it comes to pregnancy and postpartum care.”

Despite being a new venture, Birth By Us is already making a significant impact on the U.S. healthcare system and the lives of numerous underserved women. This remarkable achievement has garnered the attention of various think tanks and institutions, including the esteemed Westly Foundation.

Birth By Us recently emerged as one of the three winners of the prestigious 2024 Westly Prize for Young Social Innovators. The Westly Foundation, on January 23, announced through X (formerly known as Twitter) that Ijeoma Uche, an alumna of the University of California Berkeley, and Mercy Oladipo, a pre-medical student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will receive $40,000 in unrestricted funding to scale their health startup.

“I personally felt so supported in a way I haven’t felt in a very long time.” Because Birth By Us is primarily focused on solving a problem rather than generating profit, “it’s harder to get the funding that it needs in order to progress as fast as other companies,” she explained when she discovered that Birth By Us won the Westly Prize.

Uche stated that the $40,000 unrestricted funding will be utilized to further the mission of Birth By Us “so that we can make the impact that we want to make as fast as we anticipate.”

The Westly Foundation invests in underserved youths in California by supporting initiatives that promote education, enhance healthcare accessibility, and foster the overall growth and well-being of children.