With many hospitals and healthcare workers focusing predominantly on COVID-19, Black mothers-to-be in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, who fear contracting the virus, are attempting to deliver their babies at home without medical assistance, according to a recently published Pew article.
“They’ve told us they’re going to risk it all and have an unassisted home birth,” Nikia Grayson, a certified nurse-midwife in Memphis, Tennessee, told Pew about mothers who have been calling in for help, mainly from rural areas. “That’s very scary, and that’s what people are researching and seeing as a viable option.” Grayson also said that she is the only midwife in the state who does at-home births.
As previous reports have shown, the virus is disproportionately affecting Black communities and even before the crisis, Pew reported that Black mothers were wary of the healthcare system. And there is ample reason to be. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2019 reported that “Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women.” A root cause is a lack of access to quality healthcare as well as systemic racism in the U.S. medical system.
“The intersectionality of being a Black woman and that the rural South chose not to provide insurance coverage is a deadly combination for many,” said Joia Crear-Perry, president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative.
To help mitigate these inequities, many of the health experts that Pew spoke with said now may be the time for the medical industry to use the knowledge of midwives.
“The capacity of the midwives that are trained is already strained,” said Jennie Joseph, founder of a midwifery school and birthing center in Winter Garden, Florida. “We might want to consider physicians even delivering outside of hospitals to maintain that safety for the mothers.”