Black Women Turn to Midwives to Avoid COVID and ‘Feel Cared For’

Black Women Turn to Midwives to Avoid COVID and ‘Feel Cared For’

Rachel Scheier
September 19, 2020

From the moment she learned she was pregnant late last year, TaNefer Camara knew she didn’t want to have her baby in a hospital bed.

Already a mother of three and a part-time lactation consultant at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Camara knew a bit about childbirth. She wanted to deliver at home, surrounded by her family, into the hands of an experienced female birth worker, as her female ancestors once did. And she wanted a Black midwife.

It took the COVID-19 pandemic to get her husband on board. “Up until then, he was like, ‘You’re crazy. We’re going to the hospital,’” she said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare health care inequities, more Black women are looking to home birth as a way not only to avoid the coronavirus but also to shun a health system that has contributed to African American women being three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related causes than white women, regardless of income or education. Researchers argue that the roots of this disparity — one of the widest in women’s health care — lie in long-standing social inequities, from lack of safe housing and healthy food to inferior care provided at the hospitals where Black women tend to give birth.

“It feels like we are needed,” said midwife Kiki Jordan, who co-owns Birthland, a prenatal practice that opened early this year in a 400-square-foot storefront in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood targeting low-income women of color.
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