Saleemah McNeil’s birthing experience was nothing like what she had imagined. In fact, what unfolded at the hospital was more akin to a horror story. But because Saleemah and her son were both alive, health care professionals deemed it a success. However, the standard of care needs to shift beyond just survival so that Black birthing people can feel safe and supported when bringing their babies earthside.  

Saleemah’s traumatic birthing experience catapulted her into the field of maternal wellness. After witnessing years of reproductive injustice, she founded a nonprofit organization, the Oshun Family Center, to help families of color heal from traumatic birth experiences and transition into parenthood.  

In today’s episode of the Your Health Unlocked Podcast, we sit down with Saleemah to discuss how the Oshun Family Center is working to reduce maternal health care disparities.  

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How Saleemah’s own traumatic birthing experience ignited her passion for working with families on improving birth experiences and outcomes 
  • How the work at the Oshun Family Center intersects with the world of reproductive justice 
  • Why the overturning of Roe v. Wade threatens fertility treatment 
  • The importance of celebrating Black Maternal Health Week
  • What you can do to support the Oshun Family Center and their community, including how to self-educate on Black maternal health

More about Saleemah McNeil: 

Saleemah McNeil is a reproductive psychotherapist, certified lactation consultant, professionally trained birth doula, and a traumatic birth survivor. Saleemah has dedicated her work to helping families of color heal from traumatic birth experiences and transition into parenthood.  

Saleemah has held several positions in maternal & child health and wellness. She furthered her knowledge and experience with vulnerable birthing persons and served as a Philadelphia County Jail-based case manager at Riverside Correctional Facility. In this role, she assisted birthing women during their most vulnerable times as a doula. Working in the Department of Corrections ignited anger and passion, ultimately guiding Saleemah to a master’s degree in clinical psychology and counseling. 

After watching years of unfair treatment and inhumane conditions, reproductive injustice, systemic racism, and trauma, Saleemah founded a nonprofit organization, Oshun Family Center. She launched a citywide initiative to reduce Black maternal mortality through the “Maternal Wellness Village” program and became a key figure and content area expert in the region.  

Saleemah’s work is rooted in a deep appreciation and understanding that surviving the 4th trimester can mean life or death for some women. As a clinician, advocate, researcher, and trainer, her work is grounded in helping families survive and thrive by utilizing an anti-racism and trauma-sensitive framework. Her passion has driven her to explore new endeavors, such as impacting policy change and ultimately shifting the provider-client dynamic in healthcare by addressing the disparities for Black women. 

Resources for Episode 022:

Some Terms and Linked Definitions:  

  • Doula 
  • Reproductive Justice: The human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent our children in safe and sustainable communities. 
  • The fourth trimester 
References Mentioned:

Visit the Oshun Family Center website to learn more about their goal to center the experiences of Black people and create a welcoming space for healing and refuge. 

Here, you can sign up for their newsletter and get updates for Black Maternal Health Week 2024. 

Donate to the Oshun Family Center as they embark on a capital fundraising campaign to set their roots in Philadelphia and have the building they want and need for Black birthers to receive all the services they need in one place. 

If you know of anyone, whether it’s a person, organization, or corporation, that Oshun Family Center should connect with to move forward and further their work, please reach out to [email protected] to let them know. 

Postpartum Support International is an organization working to increase awareness among the public and professional communities about the emotional changes individuals and families experience during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. 

In 2022, the Perinatal Mental Health Alliance for People of Color (PMHA-POC) became a fully funded program within Postpartum Support International to expand its reach in bridging the gap in perinatal support services for providers and communities of color. 

Read the article featuring Saleemah McNeil, which highlights the imposter syndrome Black folks are feeling. 

Read this article to find out how overturning Roe v Wade threatens fertility care through the implications that this ruling may have on reproductive autonomy with regard to in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

Learn more about celebrating Black Maternal Health Week from the HRSA’s online resources. 

Discover how The Black Mamas Matter Alliance is helping to center Black mamas and birthing people to advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice. 

In the book “My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts,” therapist Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology.  

Learn more about the book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” where anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively. 

The primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and entertain. All views expressed by the persons featured on the Your Health Unlocked podcast are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the NWHN or its affiliates. Information provided in this podcast does not constitute medical advice. Consult your own provider for any medical issues that you may be experiencing.

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