Nurse-Midwives Bridge Maternal Health Gaps for Women of Color

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Across the United States, Black and brown women face significant health disparities during pregnancy — experiencing higher rates of maternal mortality, preterm birth, and other adverse birth outcomes compared to their white counterparts.

The Melanated Group Midwifery Care (MGMC) at UI Health is working to improve pregnancy outcomes for Black women through care teams of Black midwives, nurses, and doulas.

“Our midwives bring a unique blend of expertise, compassion, and cultural sensitivity to their practice. They truly understand the whole person and their health needs,” said Stewart, a certified nurse-midwife at UI Health. “They excel in building relationships, educating, and empowering their patients to make informed choices about their bodies. They are essential partners in addressing health disparities and advancing women's health."

To counter these health disparities, MGMC is participating in a first-of-its-kind research study that provides hundreds of Black moms with a team of midwives, social workers, and doulas from the prenatal stage up to a year after giving birth.  The study seeks to reduce health disparities for women of color at our Mile Square Health Center locations by promoting four key drivers of healthy pregnancies:

  • Increased prenatal care: Black and brown women have higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity than other racial and ethnic groups, in part because they are less likely to receive adequate prenatal care. Nurse-midwives can help increase access to prenatal care in communities that are considered maternity care deserts.
  • Culturally competent care: Nurse-midwives can help reduce disparities by providing care that is sensitive to Black women's unique needs and experiences. This includes understanding the historical and social context of Black women's experiences with healthcare providers, as well as acknowledging and addressing systemic racism and discrimination within the healthcare system.
  • Breastfeeding support: Black women have lower rates of breastfeeding than any other racial and ethnic groups, in part due to lack of support and education. Midwifery care, meanwhile, is associated with higher rates of vaginal births and higher rates of breastfeeding. By providing proper education and support for breastfeeding, midwives can help improve these rates among Black women and reduce disparities in infant health outcomes.
  • Addressing implicit bias and structural racism: Implicit bias among healthcare providers can contribute to disparities in healthcare outcomes for Black women. Nurse-midwives can assist in eliminating hierarchical barriers and advocate for shared decision-making among the patient and provider.

Learn more about the MGMC study at UIC’s Melanated Group Midwifery Care page, and learn nurse-midwife program at UI Health by visiting Midwifery Services.