Keeping Black Mothers-To-Be and their Babies Safe

This Black History Month UConn Health is Raising Awareness of the Importance of Greater Safeguards to Ensure Black Maternal Health

With the help of the maternal-fetal medicine experts at UConn Health Chazidy Watts safely delivered her newborn baby girl Ja'zai at UConn John Dempsey Hospital on December 27. She weighed 4 lbs. 9 oz. and measured 21 in. long.

The experts at UConn Health’s Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Labor & Delivery Unit at UConn John Dempsey Hospital are on a mission to keep pregnant Black women and their pregnancies as safe as possible.

Disproportionately, expectant Black mothers-to-be in the U.S. have the highest risk of pregnancy-related death and complications and are at high risk of potentially life-threatening disease conditions for both them and their babies.

One of those conditions black women are high risk for developing is gestational diabetes which occurs when there is too much sugar in your blood during pregnancy. It can lead to the placenta being overstressed and the baby not receiving all the nutrients it needs to grow. Also, gestational diabetes can lead to dangerous high blood pressure which not only compromises a pregnant woman’s heart health but also the blood flow to the placenta.

Chazidy Watts, 35, of Manchester, Conn. was thankfully diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her routine glucose pregnancy screening test. This diagnosis led her to need to take insulin to keep her and her pregnancy safe. She also experienced several dangerous bleeding episodes.

“In addition to gestational diabetes, I had placenta previa too which caused me to bleed,” Watts scarily recalls. That condition is when the placenta attaches too low inside the uterus.

Following a third bleeding episode, to keep her and her pregnancy safe, Watts was hospitalized from mid-November to the end of December 2023 until she could deliver her baby safely at UConn John Dempsey Hospital.

“When I was hospitalized at UConn Health, I had my glucose tested three times a day!”

Watts was originally being cared for at nearby Bristol Health, but when her pregnancy turned very high-risk her providers transferred her care to partnering UConn Health for advanced maternal-fetal medicine care. Over the years, UConn Health has proudly partnered with Bristol Hospital to help serve its patients including in the area of maternal-fetal medicine.

“Besides dental care, this was my very first experience with UConn Health,” says Watts. “My care and hospital stay at UConn Health was amazing! From nursing staff to housekeeping, I love them all. They really know me and were always so friendly.”

Watts adds: “They are all so sweet. UConn Health even hosted my baby shower.”

Watts was feeling down during her L & D hospitalization since she was going to miss out on the baby shower she had planned and paid for in advance.

“I couldn’t attend my baby shower as planned because I was in the hospital and my disappointment was weighing on me. But UConn Health’s team asked if they could help plan to do something for me.”

Chazidy Watts glowing at her baby shower hosted on the Labor & Delivery Unit at UConn Health while she was hospitalized.

UConn Health’s L & D nursing and social work team gave Watts and her family and friends a big room for her shower celebration day and even helped decorate.

“I was so happy. My baby shower while hospitalized at UConn Health was even more special,” exclaims Watts. “I even had my hair and makeup done. We had a great day!”

And an even greater day happened on December 27, 2023 when her daughter arrived at UConn John Dempsey Hospital safely after 33 weeks and five days of pregnancy.

Ja’zai was 4 lbs. 9 oz. and measured 21 in. long. She had a brief stay in the NICU too. Interestingly, forty years prior Ja’zai’s father also was a tiny patient in the very same NICU.

Ja’zai is also a little sister. Watts is also mom to a 17-year-old son.

“I’m 35 now, so pregnancy was a little different for me this second time around,” says Watts heartwarmingly who has a message to other Black women who are expecting a baby, and no matter their age.


“As you get older, health is more and more important during your pregnancy. But no matter your age, how you eat is so important, taking your prenatal vitamins, and routine checks at the doctors,” stresses Watts. “Please make sure you go for all your pregnancy screenings, don’t miss any, and eat as healthy as you can – even with those cravings! Sugar is not good I learned.”

“At UConn Health, we are dedicated towards improving the quality and safety of all our patients, and particularly the care of Black mothers given the known disparity in pregnancy complications that has been found nationwide,” says Dr. Kathleen M. Zacherl, medical director, Labor & Delivery and vice chair of quality, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at UConn Health. “We understand the increased risks and fear that our Black patients face and strive to support each person’s individual needs during pregnancy and the birthing process.  We actively study ways of improving disparities, the birthing experience, and pregnancy outcomes for our patients. It is also very important to us that each patient can feel safe and their voice heard during their care.”

Meet Baby Elexeus Ivy Hardy

Elexeus Ivy Hardy with her mom Dominique. Thanks to UConn Health experts this bundle of joy arrived safely on December 19 at 3 lbs. 11 oz. and 17.9 in. long.

Dominique Hardy, 26, of Torrington experienced an unexpected, high-risk pregnancy and was cared for by UConn Health’s maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) practice.

At 19 weeks her pregnancy was declared high risk during a routine doctor visit when her fetus was reading smaller in growth size. Later, she was even hospitalized for two weeks when her fetus was in distress and experienced a drop in its heart rate. It is still unknown why this occurred and if an underlying condition may be to blame.

“I was risking a lot even before the baby was born,” shares Hardy. “It was very scary and depressing. It was also confusing,” Hardy recalls. “It was like wow, is this really how pregnancy is supposed to be. I should be enjoying this moment and a baby shower.”

At 35 weeks of pregnancy Hardy was triumphant. She was induced and Elexeus Ivy Hardy arrived safely at UConn John Dempsey Hospital on December 19, 2023 at 3 lbs. 11 oz. and 17.9 in. long. The baby spent a little more than a week in the NICU before going home.

Hardy says the care from the staff at UConn Health’s labor and delivery unit were always welcoming and caring.

“They knew me very well since getting discharged from the hospital. I would have to go to L &D during my pregnancy for any of my concerns,” recalls Hardy. “When I would go in they made me feel good in those scary moments. The staff at MFM were very supportive.”

“Elexeus is doing good! She’s already eight pounds,” exclaims Hardy. “It’s great being a Mom!”

She adds: “If you are having a high-risk pregnancy, follow your heart. I carried on. I was doing it all for my baby. Find the resources you need for your very own pregnancy.”



High-risk patients like Watts and Hardy whether they have a short or long hospital stay are monitored 1-1 closely by an experienced L & D nurse at UConn Health to catch any concerning health changes for them or their pregnancy.

“If you are a woman with risk-factors for a high-risk pregnancy, we take them very seriously at UConn Health. Our teams are experts in diagnosing, managing and caring for the highest risk patients,” says Lina Godfrey, BSN, RN, nurse manager of Labor and Delivery/Obstetrics at UConn Health.

Godfrey adds: “We are adept at rapidly identifying who may be getting sick and caring for them fast. We also offer super-compassionate care to both mother and baby, helping our pregnant patients and families cope both with their excitement and fears of a high-risk pregnancy and delivery.”

UConn Health is proud to be part of these little Huskies Ja’zai and Elexeus’ safe journeys, and their moms too.