The Millie story: Better maternity care for all

The Millie story: Better maternity care for all

I am Anu Sharma, the founder and CEO of Millie. Together with Talia Borgo, Millie’s Clinical Director (who was also my midwife), and Sarah Reynolds, our Chief Technology Officer, we’re on a mission to improve the U.S. maternity care system from the inside out.

As moms and healthcare professionals, we know firsthand that the U.S. maternity care system is painfully broken. It provides incomplete, reactive, and often over-medicalized care that leaves moms, birthing people, and their babies very vulnerable — creating some of the worst outcomes in the high-income world. 

When I had my baby, the system failed me.

In 2019, I gave birth to my daughter. Coming from a family of physicians and having worked in healthcare innovation for over 15 years, I knew enough about our system to expect a certain level of brokenness in my pregnancy care and birth experience. But barely 36 hours after being discharged home, I walked myself back into the ER on the verge of a stroke after having self-diagnosed postpartum preeclampsia. I was drowning in my own body and I couldn’t breathe. A few tests later, they also discovered I had a more severe complication called Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes, and Low Platelets (HELLP)

As I lay in the CT scanner being evaluated for an ICU admission, I had two thoughts:

  1. I was so grateful for the physicians who were in my corner fighting for me.
  2. This was a failure of our maternity care system. I had been through a long and complex birth: an induction, over two days of labor, and an unplanned C-section with a near-hemorrhage. This was the very definition of a high-risk delivery. Yet I was still sent home with “standard” instructions to see my OB after six weeks for the usual postpartum visit. If I had questions, I was to call in. Nobody was going to check in on me. 

I know I was privileged to have had access to more medical knowledge than most people have, and to have given birth at one of the top hospitals in the country. Yet I almost died. Hundreds of others who give birth in the U.S. each year may not have the same opportunities or outcomes — especially Black mothers

Research has repeatedly shown that the majority of maternal mortality and morbidity events are preventable, which means we know we can do better. So… why haven’t we yet?

Once I was out of crisis mode, I called Talia and asked her, “If you could provide care the way you know people need, what would that look like?” And so, Millie was born. 

Soon after, Sarah and I met. We connected over our toddlers (who were born two weeks apart) and our mutual disappointment with the current “standard” of maternity care. We talked about the nerve-wracking 8+ week wait before the initial pregnancy confirmation appointment, the isolating lack of support we felt between the episodic 15-minute visits that make up pregnancy care, and the absurdity of going to expensive classes just to learn about the basics of childbirth, newborn care, and feeding (why was that not a core part of pregnancy care?). We both felt wholly unprepared for our postpartum recovery needs, overwhelmed with our lives as new parents, and depleted emotionally. 

The truth is this: Pregnancy and parenthood are seismic life events. You go through changes at every level: physical, mental, emotional, identity, relationships. Yet “standard” maternity care is only set up to cover a narrow clinical slice of the experience — and it doesn’t even do that well. 

In short, the current “standard” wasn’t what Sarah and I wanted as patients or that Talia wanted to provide as a care professional. We decided to create a new one with Millie.  

The Millie care model

Through Millie, we’re taking what we really wanted for ourselves and turning it into reality for others. Because we believe all people should have access to evidence-based maternity care, equitable outcomes, and a stronger support system so they can have the best start as families.

Millie provides modern, culturally competent maternity care for all — enabled with 21st century technology. Here’s what that looks like:  

  • Collaborative OB-midwifery model: Research shows that when midwives are involved in maternity care, the outcomes and experience are often better. So, at Millie, we designed a collaborative care model with both OB-GYNs and midwives in an effort to decrease interventions, increase the rate of vaginal birth after C-section (VBACs), and improve other health outcomes.
  • Proactive monitoring and education: One of the biggest causes of maternal mortality is delayed care due to limited knowledge of the warning signs of complications. The Millie app and care model enable remote monitoring between visits, trimesterly coaching sessions with practicing doulas, and ongoing education to promote early detection of complications and build confidence.
  • Robust postpartum and mental healthcare: No one should have to know when to ask for help, whether it’s for their physical health or emotional well-being. Millie provides 3x the standard postpartum visits, including a home visit just a few days after birth, and comprehensive mental health support at every stage. This is especially important because complication rates are highest in the early weeks postpartum — and because mental health conditions during pregnancy, which are difficult on their own, can increase the risk of complications like preeclampsia.
  • Human-centered care and shared decision-making: Centering care around patient experiences and perspectives not only increases satisfaction, but it can also increase feelings of self-efficacy and even improve health outcomes. At Millie, you’ll have ownership over your care planning and decision-making so you always feel good about what’s happening.
  • Quality virtual care: Virtual care isn’t just convenient — it has the power to reduce health disparities. By incorporating virtual visits when medically possible, allowing for daily messaging with your care team in the Millie app, and accepting most major insurance plans, we hope to remove as many barriers as we can.

Millie is building better maternity care for all 

Behind every scheduled appointment, message, and expert-created resource in the Millie app is a belief: This is your special experience, and we’re here to guide you through it so you can feel as confident, supported, and in control as possible. Right from the first positive pregnancy test through early parenthood. Just like we would have wanted.

This journey is hard enough on its own. We believe everyone should have access to exceptional maternity care that gives their families the strongest start.

We believe this is possible. And we’re making it happen with Millie.

More articles

Pregnant Black woman with the ocean in the background

Birthing While Black in America: A Black Mother's Experience of Building a Strong Perinatal Support Team

When I set out to write this article, I would have loved to have said that as a Black birthing person I selected an all-Black birthing team to meet my needs. But the reality is that there aren’t enough Black reproductive healthcare professionals. So, I selected a team of birth-work and mental health professionals who listened to me, who made me feel seen, and who were not afraid to engage in a discussion about my experience as it pertains to my race and identity.
Hand Writing In A Notebook

How to think about birth plans and preferences

With all the planning that goes into getting pregnant, being pregnant, deciding where to give birth, and then settling into life with a baby, coming up with a “birth plan” might feel like just another stress-inducing item on the to-do list.

What you need to know about fertility, infertility, and trying to get pregnant

The truth about trying to get pregnant is that it may not happen immediately for most people — and many people in the U.S. experience trouble conceiving and staying pregnant.