Receiving high quality care during pregnancy is important and can lead to better outcomes for you and your baby. One particularly important element of good prenatal care is care that’s personalized.
Personalized care should be a priority
What are your preferences for labor? Is breastfeeding important to you? These are some of the questions that can be meaningful in figuring out what sort of care is important to you. More than anything, personalized care means a care provider views you as a unique individual and really understands your needs and wishes, hears your concerns, helps you understand your health and your options, and ensures that you feel in control of your body and your care. And while an ideal birth experience isn’t always possible for safety reasons, a good provider will always communicate why things are happening and do their best to meet as many of your wishes as possible while keeping you safe. It’s also worth noting that because of the coronavirus pandemic, virtual or telehealth appointments are becoming much more common. But if being seen in person for healthcare appointments is important to you, this is the sort of care that you can advocate for too.
Shared cultural understanding is important too
Culture defines so many aspects of our lives, including our understanding and experience of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. So finding support within your own cultural community can be empowering. This might mean working with a care provider who understands your religion, or grew up in your community, or who shares your background. If you’re Black, you may want to work with a Black OB/GYN, midwife, mental health professional, or doula. And if you plan to breastfeed, it might also mean that you take classes with a Black breastfeeding support group in your community before birth or attend breastfeeding support sessions postpartum, and that you work with a Black lactation consultant as needed. Care based in this sort of shared cultural understanding can also play a huge role in ensuring that your experience of pregnancy and postpartum is what you want it to be, and that you’re given the opportunity to feel recognized and satisfied with your care.
Benefits for birthing parents
Health inequity surrounding childbirth is a devastating problem in the United States. Black women and families experience disproportionately worse maternal and infant health outcomes. There are a number of reasons for this, including limited access to care, dismissal of pain and other health concerns, and higher rates of underlying health conditions — racism and unconscious bias in the healthcare system are significant factors in each of these areas.
Care providers who provide personalized and culturally relevant care achieve better outcomes for the moms and families they support. For example, in addition to lowering rates of complications, folks who work with midwives are happier and more satisfied with their care, and have higher rates of breastfeeding. Much of this seems to stem from the midwifery philosophy and framework that views reproductive work as social justice work and equity as essential to health. And recent research shows that doulas can help lead to better health outcomes too. Folks who work with doulas are less likely to experience complications that involve them or their baby, are less likely to have a baby with low birth weight, and have higher rates of breastfeeding.
You deserve care that centers you
Regardless of who you work with as a care provider, you deserve to receive care that centers your wants, needs, and wishes; care that ensures you feel heard; care that reminds you that you have agency over your body and care.
- How culturally relevant care can help you thrive during pregnancy, and beyond
- How a doula can support you during pregnancy and postpartum
- Kennedy Austin. “End Racial Disparities in Maternal Health, Call a Midwife.” Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Columbia University, February 2 2020. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/end-racial-disparities-maternal-health-call-midwife.
- Kenneth J. Gruber, Susan H. Cupito, Christina F. Dobson. “Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes.” The Journal of Perinatal Education. 22(1): 49-58. Winter 2013. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647727/.
- Petraten Hoope-Bender et al. “Improvement of maternal and newborn health through midwifery.” The Lancet. 384(9949): 1226-1235. September 27-October 3 2014. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140673614609302.
- Jill Litman. “Call the Midwives: Addressing America’s Black Maternal and Infant Mortality Crisis.” The Public Health Advocate. Berkeley Public Health, May 8 2019. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://pha.berkeley.edu/2019/05/08/call-the-midwives-addressing-americas-black-maternal-and-infant-mortality-crisis/.
- Nina Martin. “A Larger Role for Midwives Could Improve Deficient U.S. Care for Mothers and Babies.” Pro Publica. Pro Publica Inc., February 22 2018. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.propublica.org/article/midwives-study-maternal-neonatal-care.
- Cara Terreri. “Black History Month: The Importance of Black Midwives, Then, Now and Tomorrow.” Lamaze International. Lamaze International, February 22 2019. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.lamaze.org/Connecting-the-Dots/black-history-month-the-importance-of-black-midwives-then-now-and-tomorrow-1.
- Koren Thomas. “The Black Midwives Movement.” MedPage Today. MedPage Today, LLC, February 23 2020. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.medpagetoday.com/nursing/nursing/85014.
- Saraswathi Vedam et al. “Mapping integration of midwives across the United States: Impact on access, equity, and outcomes.” PLOS ONE. PLOS, February 21 2018. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0192523.
- “Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 4 2020. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/pregnancy-mortality-surveillance-system.htm.
- “Social Justice, Birth Justice, and Midwifery.” The Midwives Alliance of North America. The Midwives Alliance of North America . Retrieved August 31 2020. https://mana.org/healthcare-policy/social-justice-birth-justice-midwifery.