As I was considering these factors and trying to decide what to write this blog post about, I remembered this video from last year's The Big Push for Midwives Issue Briefing for members of Congress showing Jennie Joseph, LM, CPM talking about her birth center, The Birth Place, in Orlando, Florida.
It's pretty clear that The Birth Place has drastically fewer racial disparities than her area's average. She attributes the difference to their care being more accessible to the uninsured, but I think that is only part of the story. I believe that the obstetric model of care, which is the norm in the U.S., is failing black women. Here are some components of the midwifery model that I believe may better meet their needs:
- Focus on Preventing Complications with Healthy Lifestyle - While obstetric practices generally focus mostly on screening for pathology, midwifery care includes extensive counseling on nutrition and exercise during pregnancy. This approach integrates prevention of problems.
- Individualized Care - Midwives strive to make their care specific to the needs of individual women instead of providing one-size-fits-all care that may be more suited to one race than another.
- Holistic Treatment - Midwifery care treats the whole woman, not just her body. Prenatal care that is only a medical check up is a missed opportunity to resolve other issues that could contribute to disparities, including social and emotional stresses in the woman's life.
- Longer Prenatal Visits - The average length of a midwife visit is significantly longer than one with a physician. This allows more time to focus on these issues and develop a trusting caregiver/client relationship.
- Relaxation Practice - Birth centers do not offer epidurals, so midwives at a birth center would encourage women to prepare for a natural birth. In fact, State of Florida Law requires that birth centers counsel their clients to receive appropriate childbirth education. This preparation usually involves relaxation practice, which can be helpful for dealing with stress.
- Empowering Education - Midwifery supports women in being educated and involved in decisions about their care instead of letting the birth professional make most of the choices for them. This can help them learn to take responsibility for themselves and their babies, both during and after the childbearing cycle.