It is repeatedly brought to the attention of Black women that they are not afforded the same considerations as white women while pregnant or following childbirth.
Ariana McGee, a mother of four, nearly lost her fourth child in 2020 due to medical negligence. Her state of residence at this time was Indiana, which had the third-highest maternal mortality rate in the nation as of 2022, according to research by Indiana University.
In an exclusive interview with AfroTech, McGee recalls the difficult time period and remembers feeling extra cautious when communicating with doctors due to having had previous C-sections. Additionally, it was tough for her to feel secure during her pregnancy journey since most of her appointments were virtual.
“I am a mom of four. When I was pregnant with our fourth baby, it was during the height of COVID,” she express to AfroTech. “I needed all these extra touchpoints with my doctors because I was considered a high-risk pregnancy due to previous C-sections, but my appointments were forced to be virtual. It made me think ‘this could be a problem if something were to go really wrong.'”
McGee would later go into labor two days before her due date. She was greeted by an on-call doctor who didn’t validate her concerns.
“She refused to call my doctor and tried to send me home from the hospital,” McGee mentioned. “My husband was away at spine fellowship, but thankfully my mom was there to stand up and advocate for me.”
Fortunately, McGee’s doctor received notice, and she was swiftly moved to an operating room, which revealed her uterus was “dangerously thin.”
“They could see my daughter’s hair,” she said. “If I had gone home that day and listened to the on-call doctor, my daughter and I could have died. I experienced first hand how easily Black women die in this process if they are not heard or if they do not have an advocate.”
Due to this experience and the fact that other women have faced the same concerns, McGee was compelled to launch Navigate Maternity, a remote monitoring platform that facilitates equitable prenatal and postpartum care for pregnant women.
“My experience made me realize just how easy it was for Black, Brown, and rural women to fall through the cracks when it comes to pregnancy and especially during the postpartum period,” McGee explained. “I was fortunate to have an advocate and intimate knowledge of healthcare, but I know that many other women don’t have this network. What about them? We should not accept that women and babies fall victim to gaps in health care. This is why I created Navigate Maternity.”
According to the company’s website, Navigate Maternity will allow providers to receive real-time biometric data through wearables, such as a Bluetooth blood pressure cuff, worn by at-risk patients.
In addition, providers will have access to questionnaires and mental health assessments, which are facilitated on the application and will allow them to be more intentional about addressing the patient’s maternal health.
“Navigate Maternity’s remote patient monitoring system captures and communicates data to healthcare providers so that they can intervene with moms before a catastrophic event takes place,” McGee told AfroTech.
She added, “This data empowers care teams with the information to be proactive in treating their pregnant and postpartum patients. Our system’s use extends into the postpartum period, monitoring patients for postnatal complications up to a year after the baby is born.”
All-Black, Women Executive Team
As an added bonus, a team of all Black women are the masterminds behind the kit that users will receive with products to track their health.
The team consists of McGee (CEO); Theadora James, MHA (chief operating officer); and Dr. Elicia Harris, MD, MBA (chief medical officer). With over two decades of healthcare experience among them, they bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise.
“What makes the Navigate Maternity team so special is that we are all Black women from Indiana who have had extensive careers (OB/GYN, Payer, and Medtech) in healthcare with a focus on addressing disparities in our community,” McGee said. “As a Founder, I’ve birthed four children in the height of the Black maternal health crisis and have dealt with the reality of implicit bias first hand. Ultimately, we are members of the population we wish to serve, which means our passion for this issue is very real and very personal. When our kit reaches a woman in the early stages of her pregnancy, she knows that it was built by Black women, for Black women, to save Black women.”
Verizon’s Forward for Good Accelerator
Looking ahead, Navigate Maternity is slated to launch in Q2 of 2024. Additionally, there are discussions in the works to pilot Navigate Maternity’s services with healthcare channel partners on the East Coast. The opportunity was made possible after McGee participated in a 16-week program under Verizon’s Forward for Good Accelerator as a member of its Health Equity cohort.
“Verizon has facilitated connections with potential buyers and decision makers who can help us reach the populations who can benefit from Navigate Maternity’s services,” she detailed. “Because of Verizon’s assistance, we were able to connect with healthcare channel partners on the East Coast reaching patients on Medicaid. Through these relationships, we are discussing a pilot of Navigate Maternity to expectant mothers. For a small but nimble startup like ours, these relationships and opportunities are huge for getting the word out to key players and investors in the healthcare industry who can help us reach more Black and Brown women.”