June 03, 2021
Are More Black Midwives and Black Owned Birth Centers the Answer to Higher Deaths Amongst Black Parents?
By: Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), CLE | 0 Comments
Black families experience maternal mortality rates that are three to four times the rates of white birthing people and Black babies are twice as likely to die during their first year of life. Institutional and systemic racism is directly responsible for Black families receiving subpar care, experiencing bullying and coercion from providers during prenatal care, labor and birth and the postpartum period. The lack of Black maternity care providers (doctors, midwives, lactation consultants, doulas, mental health specialists and more) makes it very hard to find a provider who looks like the birthing person.
The New Yorker and the Retro Report created a new short film, “Bearing the Burden: Black Mothers in America,” that discusses how health care providers are returning to the midwife to meet the maternity care needs of Black people who are growing their families. A century ago, Granny Midwives were responsible for the majority of births of Black families and poor white families. Doctors created unwarranted concerns about the safety practices and skill levels of the Black midwives and forced them to stop practicing. “Can Midwives Bridge the Gap?” Is the accompanying article that goes along with the documentary.
Now there is a strong movement to support and grow traditional midwifery practices in order to address the inequities in our maternal health care systems and improve outcomes for Black parents and babies.
The documentary talks about:
- How the racial redlining of midwifery was detrimental to US healthcare and outcomes, and particularly to Black people, who are at higher risk of maternal mortality and other poor health outcomes.
- How the BIPOC community is reclaiming midwifery to improve birth outcomes and experiences.
- Challenges and opportunities for community-led birth centers, midwives of color and their patients.
A film screening was held for this powerful documentary, and a panel discussion took place after the screening. You can find the recording of the panel discussion here. Black health care practitioners participated and shared their thoughts on the role the Black midwife and Black owned community birth centers might play in reducing Black maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, as well as acknowledging that there are simply not enough Black midwives to provide maternity care to Black families.
Black midwives alone are not going to be enough to undo centuries of harm and damage caused to the Black people who were enslaved in the United States and their descendants who continue to live today with the trauma and impact of oppression and racism. But creating opportunities to increase the number of Black midwives and working hard to connect healthy, low risk Black families with community birth and community midwives is one important contribution towards changing the grim statistics.
TagsBirth Pregnancy Postpartum Midwifery Care Black Maternal Mortality Midwifery Sharon Muza Black Midwives The New Yorker Retro Report