Midwives, Doulas and Birthing Centers

The little family was safe, as they laid in a wide, comfortable bed as soft music played under dimmed lights at the birthing center! Just before midnight on a cold New Jersey evening in January, Jamira Eaddy-Onque pushed out her baby girl into the hands of a midwife. The midwife set the baby on the mother’s chest. Ali Onque, the baby’s father,  kissed the baby again and again as he marveled over their blessing.

Anastasia, the beautiful baby, had a good birth, but like many others, the delivery began in distress. The Onque’s had the support of a midwife to help with the complications of the delivery. However, the outcome for many Black mothers in the United States is not so good.  In the United States, Black women are four times as likely to die from maternity-related complications as white women.

In New Jersey, where the Onque’s lives, a Black woman is seven times as likely to die from pregnancy and related causes than a white woman. Recently, The Dayton Daily News reported, over half of pregnancy-related deaths in Ohio were preventable and black women died at a rate more than two and a half times that of white women, according to the state’s first comprehensive report on pregnancy-associated maternal deaths. In fact, educated Black women, in some American states with at least a college degree are 5.2 times more likely to die prematurely than their white counterparts from pregnancy-related complications” according to the CDC, 2019. 

A growing awareness of these disparities, along with the fear of giving birth in a hospital during a pandemic, is leading some pregnant Black women like Ms. Eaddy-Onque to seek out other options. Many municipalities around the country have begun forming legislation to ensure that other options are available like having Doulas in the birth rooms to minimize the biased clinical care that many African American mothers receive during delivery.

New legislation to help more mothers connect with birthing centers to realize the benefits of having more midwives and Doulas involved at the beginning of their prenatal journeys.  Local Doula, Lesli Newton, owner of Doula Services, LLC in Cincinnati, Ohio explained that Doulas provide non-medical, emotional and physical support to mothers and their families, while midwives provide holistic standard medical care. Black pregnant women will certainly benefit from Midwives, Doulas, and birthing centers to minimize the inefficiencies that lead to the poor maternal mortality rate in the United States which is among the worst in the industrialized world.