February 24, 2022
Poppy Seed Health’s Simmone Taitt wants to eliminate maternal health inequities
The real-time health advocacy app offers a virtual best friend — no matter where users are on their pregnancy journeys
Simmone Taitt isn’t afraid of rabbit holes. As the founder and CEO of Poppy Seed Health — an on-demand health advocacy app for birthing people providing pregnancy and postpartum care — Taitt digs deep, no matter how dark or scary or in the weeds a topic may get.
“I’ve never been afraid of exploring,” Taitt says. “It’s the one thing that’s ingrained in my DNA: I don’t mind asking questions, and I don’t mind trying new things.”
Over the course of a career that has taken her from the burgeoning world of retail to the emerging world of technology, Taitt prides herself on getting from “day zero to day one.” For Poppy Seed Health, day zero was the day she learned the shocking and unfortunate news that she had lost her first pregnancy.
“I was in my doctor’s office, and we couldn’t find a heartbeat,” Taitt recalls of the first-trimester appointment where her doctor delivered the news. “I left that appointment with no medical, emotional, or mental health support. I was just spinning for information. So I went to the internet.”
After several rabbit holes led to her discovery of a doula message board — a forum she endearingly refers to as a “virtual bear hug” — she made the decision to become a doula herself, and the seed was planted for what would become Poppy Seed Health.
What started as a simple need for information after Taitt’s first of multiple pregnancy losses, quickly evolved into something more. She began her journey to becoming a birth doula trained by DONA and a full-spectrum doula trained by Ancient Song Doula Services, which has a focus on reproductive rights and birth justice. As a practitioner of the emerging movement — which aims to tackle the inequalities in pregnancy-related healthcare for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities — she is supporting others on their journeys from conception through to postpartum, and pregnancy and infant loss. “I wanted to be boots on the ground,” she says. “I needed to understand the gaps in maternal healthcare for myself.”
“Everything I’ve done personally as a doula, between my own lived experiences and what I experience with my own clients, informs Poppy,” Taitt explains. “From the way that we’ve built the technology, to the look and feel of the app.”
Launched exclusively on the App Store in April 2021, and recently featured as an App of the Day, Poppy Seed Health provides 24/7 access to a diverse network of doulas, midwives, and nurses for birthing, postpartum, and pregnancy and infant loss support. To ensure users are paired with an appropriate advocate for their particular needs, Poppy has introduced matching algorithms for where a user is in their journey, from pregnancy to postpartum. Soon, the app will match users with care providers based on preferences such as race, ethnicity, languages spoken, and LGBTQIA+ identification.
What’s more, 50 percent of the hundreds of advocates on Poppy identify as BIPOC, queer, trans, and a wide array of intersectionality in between.
“It truly is the magic of what’s going on in the background,” Taitt explains. “Users don’t just get anyone, they get the person who can meet them where they are in the moments they need support the most.”
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an estimated 26 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, 80 percent of which occur in the first trimester. Globally, an estimated 23 million miscarriages occur every year. In BIPOC communities, these numbers can be drastically higher. A 2021 study of seven countries conducted by The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, revealed that Black women have a 43 percent higher risk of pregnancy loss.
Poppy Seed Health’s emphasis on diversity is intentional. It builds a layer of accessibility into the app that Taitt and her team decided early on would be its core offering: assisting birthing people who need emotional, mental, and well-being support wherever they are in their journey. It was vital to Taitt that Poppy be priced in a way that is affordable for all users, and so for each member paying the $29 monthly subscription price, the app is able to provide free access to one user who is receiving Medicaid. Today, 30 percent of the people who use Poppy Seed Health are on Medicaid, and 75 percent of users visit the app’s free evidence-based library.
Just shy of a year after its official launch, Poppy Seed Health is still in its infancy. Today, it’s one of many apps available on the App Store focused on pregnancy-related health with an emphasis on tackling existing inequalities in healthcare, like Irth, a Yelp-like platform that offers prenatal, birthing, postpartum, and pediatric reviews of care from Black and Brown birthing people.
Though her path to technology and becoming an app founder might seem unconventional, Taitt has no problem pointing to her through line: Her passion for sales is also her passion for connecting and building relationships with people, and for solving problems together.
“I went from getting bit by the startup bug and loving technology, to truly building it myself,” Taitt says. “And understanding that technology is so much bigger than just the people who are actually building it. It’s the entire ecosystem coming together to make technology accessible.”
Katie Clark Alsadder
Apple Media Helpline