November 10, 2023

Irth App Revolutionizes Maternal Care For Black Families, Transforming Hospitals One Review At A Time

Kimberly Seals Allers

A Black birthing review app, Irth, is making its way into hospitals to improve Black families’ experiences.

The Irth App

Irth is a mobile app that collects and shares healthcare reviews from parents of color.

The name comes from the word birth, with the ‘b’ dropped for bias.

The app helps Black and brown women and birthing people have a safer and more empowered pregnancy experience by allowing users to see how other parents of color experience care from a doctor or at a hospital.

The app enables Black birthing families and doulas to give reviews on hospitals and care teams to serve as guidance for families who are researching to pick a hospital.

People can leave and read reviews on the app on prenatal care, postpartum appointments, and pediatric care.

Irth is a project of Narrative Nation, a New York-based 501(c)(3) that creates narrative-centered media and technology to address health disparities.

The tech non-profit aims to democratize the story of inequalities to foster systemic change and catalyze behavioral shifts.

Both Narrative Nation and Irth were founded by award-winning journalist Kimberly Seals Allers, who had her own experience with birthing and inspired her companies.

Meet Kimberly Seals Allers

While pregnant, Allers told NPR she wanted to make sure she was going to the best place when selecting a hospital to give birth.

When she arrived at her chosen hospital, she had a negative experience, such as nurses chastising her for requesting pain relief and not being given the option to have a vaginal birth.

Her daughter was then given formula when Allers had clearly stated she was breastfeeding.

After this experience, she said she wanted to do something to make it easier for African Americans and other people of color to navigate the healthcare system during pregnancy and birth.

A recent study found that Black women are three to four times more likely to experience complications during pregnancy and childbirth and die from these complications compared with white women.

Additionally, infants born to Black women are two times more likely to be born prematurely compared with infants born to white women.

Irth began as a mother and son project as she and her son started going to app development classes together at NYU, where he created the first wireframes she used.

After being invited to speak at an MIT hackathon, engineers turned her son’s wireframes into a mobile prototype, and she was able to use that to start raising funds and getting grants.

Black Women Face More Negative Experiences 

Allears said that the number one negative experience being reported requests for help being ignored or refused, followed closely by pain levels being dismissed and physical privacy being violated.

Other experiences included women being scolded, yelled at, or threatened and, lastly, families experiencing comments based on racial stereotypes. 

Due to this, Irth has pilot partnerships with several hospitals, working with staff to establish a goal number of reviews to be collected.

They then share their findings and work with the hospitals on strategies to improve patient experiences.

The app has been implemented in California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and downtown Minneapolis. 

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.