Skip to main content

Win MANA Swag! How Has A Midwife Impacted Your Life?

Posted by MANA Community Manager on April 25th, 2014

May 5th marks the International Day of the Midwife. We're taking this opportunity to honor and celebrate the many ways midwives provide life-long support to families.

To celebrate, we're hosting a story contest! Share with MANA the story of how your midwife supported your family. Midwives provide care, counseling, and support throughout a family's life, from birth to miscarriage and pregnancy loss, fertility, lactation, newborn care, and health advocacy as well as routine and preventive gynecological care. We welcome your stories not just about birth, but about any of the ways a midwife has impacted you.

The winning story will earn a one year membership to MANA for your midwife and a Celebrate t-shirt for you! 

Here's the way the contest will work:

Please send your story to MANA either via e-mail at info@mana.org, or message us privately on the MANA Facebook page. (Please do not post your story on the MANA page directly! We'll do that in the next step . . . ) Please send us your stories by noon eastern on May 2nd. (The fine print: By sending us your story, you are granting permission for your story to be shared on MANA's Facebook page and other social media.)

From all of the entries, MANA will select five stories to share on the MANA Facebook page May 3rd - May 5th.

Come vote! The story that gets the most likes and comments from the MANA community wins!

We'll announce the winner - based on the community voting - on International Day of the Midwife - May 5th - at 5 pm eastern time. We'll also share the winning story with the MANA membership via e-mail.

An Open Letter to ACOG

Posted by MANA Community Manager on April 10th, 2014

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently released a joint statement with the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine on ways to reduce primary cesareans. As a part of our Cesarean Awareness Month efforts, we wanted to share with the MANA community our open letter to ACOG. We welcome your comments.

Dr. Jeanne Conry, President
Dr. Hal Lawrence, Executive Director
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Dear Drs. Conry and Lawrence,

On behalf of the Midwives Alliance, I am writing to congratulate you for the strong commitment to high quality maternity care that ACOG has demonstrated by developing and disseminating the Joint Statement by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery.

In recent studies and commentaries regarding causes for the escalating rate among low-risk patients, experts suggested the increase in cesarean sections was due to maternal health issues, such as gestational diabetes and obesity, fetal issues, such as malpresentation and multiple gestation, as well as malpractice concerns affecting hospital policies and practitioners. However, this new position statement by the nation's maternal and fetal health experts suggests that modification of certain maternity care practices could in fact reduce primary surgical deliveries. The World Health Organization called for the elimination of unnecessary cesarean sections as early as 1996, yet until recently there were few resources to assist maternity care providers in achieving this goal. This new joint statement provides a critical, evidence-based and actionable guideline for both health care providers and consumers. The emphasis placed on accounting for patient preference when making these complex decisions is reflective of the value that ACOG places on patient oriented outcomes.

As you may be aware, in May 2012, MANA, ACNM, and NACPM issued a joint statement entitled Supporting Healthy Normal Physiologic Birth That statement provides a complementary evidence-based guideline for practitioners who seek to facilitate normal physiologic birth and limit obstetric interventions to those that are necessary and evidence-based. We look forward to future opportunities to collaborate across disciplines to endorse evidence-based best practices in maternity care.

I wanted you to know that MANA publicly endorses the Joint Statement on the Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean. We are committed to working together—physicians, nurses, midwives, hospital personnel—to strive for an integrated maternal and child health system that provides high quality care for all women and infants in the U.S.

Thank you again for your leadership and vision.

Marinah V. Farrell, President
Midwives Alliance

Marinah V. Farrell is the president of the Midwives Alliance of North America. Politics and traditional medicine is what led Marinah to midwifery, and she has a firm commitment to both political activism and birth work. Marinah has been the president of various non-profit boards, has worked in waterbirth centers and medical facilities for international NGOs, free-standing birth centers in the U.S, and has been the owner of a long standing homebirth practice. Marinah also works with various local grassroots organizations in Arizona such as the Phoenix Allies for Community Health, a free clinic in downtown Phoenix, and assists in collective endeavors with other grassroots groups. Marinah is focused on the issue of lack of access to midwives and the profession of midwifery in communities where health disparities are overwhelming, as well as training in cultural safety.

Thoughts? Comments? Please add them here.

Happy IBCLC Day from MANA!

Posted by MANA Community Manager on March 5th, 2014

Topics  

Today is IBCLC Day! 

This year, the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) is honoring the day by “taking this opportunity to thank the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) that have made a difference in our lives.”

We know that many aspects of the midwifery model of care result in very high breastfeeding rates among midwifery clients. The recent study by the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health found that women who intended to give birth at home had exceptional breastfeeding outcomes. At six weeks postpartum, more than 97% of newborns were at least partially breastfed and 86% were exclusively breastfed.

Despite the many practices of midwives that encourage breastfeeding, some women still experience breastfeeding challenges. This can be the result of anatomical issues (like tongue tie, flat or inverted nipples, or previous breast surgeries), medical issues (premature infants, infants with disabilities, or mothers with illness or disabilities), or just the process of learning a new skill.

For example, Treesa McLean, a Licensed Midwife in California, works in consultation with an IBCLC in her community if a baby has special needs. “Premature infants or babies with disabilities may need extra breastfeeding help. I trust our IBCLCs to support moms who need it.”

Other times, a midwife might have the knowledge base to provide a family with support, but time limitations. “If I am at a birth and a mother needs immediate help, I’ll refer her to a local IBCLC,” said Washington State-based midwife Louisa Wales, LM, CPM.. “Or if I think she’s going to need ongoing care that would be better provided by someone who focuses exclusively on breastfeeding.”

Most midwives have stories to tell about how International Board Certified Lactation Consultants have helped improve outcomes for families. Take today to thank IBCLCs in your community! Share your story of working with IBCLCs in the Facebook post here. You can also show your gratitude by clicking share and posting on the Facebook “wall” of an IBCLC that has helped you and the families with whom you work.

 

Home Birth Research Q & A

Posted by MANA Community Manager on February 7th, 2014

We’ve had lots of questions from families, midwives, and others about the recent release of two articles that were based on the Midwives Alliance of North America dataset (MANA Stats). Here are answers to some common questions, along with a roundup of some of the coverage.

Numbers are useful, but only if they can be compared to something. What outcomes can we compare to the Cheyney article’s findings?

In the study, the authors compare the findings to the best available observational studies of planned home births and birth center births. For low-risk women, the authors find similar rates of both positive and negative outcomes for mothers and babies as nearly every other large, well-designed study.

Some of these well-designed studies are able to compare to hospital rates (which is difficult to do in the U.S.). For example, the Hutton et al (2009) study found no difference in risks to babies between home and hospital in Ontario, Canada. While it is reassuring that the Hutton study had comparable rates of mortality at home as the Cheyney study and it found no difference in risk between home and hospital, more research will be needed to compare U.S. home birth and hospital birth rates.

Why doesn’t the Cheyney study compare home birth to hospital birth mortality rates?

It makes sense to want to draw these comparisons. However, hospital rates in the U.S. are derived from vital statistics data (birth certificates and/or death certificates). A number of organizations, including the American College of Nurse Midwives and Citizens for Midwifery have spelled out the limitations, which include a failure to capture the intended place of birth and inaccurate reporting of some outcomes.

Also, the MANA Stats data captures three kinds of mortality outcomes:
Intrapartum = a baby that was alive at the onset of labor, but died prior to birth
Early neonatal = a baby that was born alive, but died during the first week of life
Late neonatal = a baby that was born alive, but died between 7 and 28 days of life

Vital Statistics data report only two: early and late neonatal deaths. You may have participated in discussions that attempt to make these comparisons. Many have confused the combined rate (intrapartum+early+late neonatal) with rates that include only one or two of these outcomes. When attempting to compare rates, we encourage you to ask whether the rate is for intrapartum, early, or late neonatal, and to ask for the source of their data.

How could the findings of this research be so different from findings that suggest home birth has a greater risk than hospital births?

Those studies primarily rely on Vital Statistics data. For a helpful fact sheet on how to assess the quality of articles based on medical records - the “gold standard” for research and the basis of MANA Stats - against those based on Vital Statistics, see this in-depth look at Citizens for Midwifery.

I’m looking for unbiased analyses of this article and home birth evidence to share with families, policy makers, and others.

Here’s a few we’ve found:
Evidence-Based Birth summary on Facebook. Rebecca Dekker is known for her thoughtful and unbiased approaches to the literature.
Judith Lothian’s review at Science and Sensibility.
ACNM’s preliminary review of the Chervenak/Grunebaum findings. This includes a comment on MANA Stats.
Citizens For Midwifery's summary of the findings.

NEW TODAY:

The Daily Beast’s look at how “alarmist studies . . . from data pulled from vital-statistics data” are getting in the way of ensuring safety for mothers and babies, from the Daily Beast. 

Citations:
Hutton EK, Reitsma AH, Kaufman K. (2009). Outcomes associated with planned home and planned hospital births in low-risk women attended by midwives in Ontario, Canada, 2003-2006: a retrospective cohort study. Birth 36(3):180-9.

COMMENTERS PLEASE NOTE:

The only comments that have not been published have been because the author did not leave a first and last name. Please check our community guidelines if you have any questions.

MANA Statistics Project Update

Posted by MANA Community Manager on January 24th, 2014

We’re incredibly excited to tell you that on January 30th, next Thursday, the much-anticipated outcomes from our MANA Stats 2004-2009 dataset will be publicly released.  

Two articles will be published in the upcoming Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health: one describes the MANA Stats system and how it works, and the other describes the outcomes of planned home births with midwives between 2004 and 2009.  

The Midwives Alliance is proud of our Division of Research and the amazing MANA Stats system. This is the largest registry of planned home births in the U.S. and one of only two large datasets where normal physiologic birth can be studied, and we thank all of the contributor midwives who have made this possible. We also thank the members of the MANA Division of Research who created the system, continually improved it over the years, and have put quality assurance processes in place to make sure the data are sound.  And finally, we thank the researchers who shepherded these articles down the long road to publication.  We’re looking forward to the important conversations that these articles will generate!

For an in-depth look at what to expect from the articles, check out the post Understanding MANA Stats here.

Watch here for an update next Thursday, when we’ll share with you a summary of the findings, links to the research, and materials to share with women, families and others interested in learning more about home birth.

image credit: www.sweetbirths.com

What Does The Law Say About Midwifery In Your State?

Posted by MANA Community Manager on December 10th, 2013

New State by State Resource Guide provides legal status, connects birth professionals and consumers

In a climate of rapidly expanding consumer demand for home and birth center births, state midwifery laws are changing to adapt to this growing trend for out-of-hospital birth. The United States does not have a comprehensive federal law that regulates the practice of midwifery. Each state determines its own regulation and scope of practice for midwives. While Certified Nurse-Midwives practice legally in all 50 US states, regulation of direct-entry midwives varies widely from state to state.

Check your state at our State By State resource guide to:

  • learn about the current status of midwifery laws in your area

  • connect with the midwifery professional organizations and consumer groups supporting birth options

Direct-entry midwifery (DEM) is a general term used in the United States for a wide range of practitioners who enter the profession of midwifery through routes of education other than nursing. These practitioners include Certified Professional Midwives (CPM)—those holding certificates issued by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM), Certified Midwives (CM)—those holding certificates issued by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), as well as Registered Midwives (RM), Licensed Midwives (LM), and other direct-entry midwives practicing in states still in the process of regulating and licensing DEMs.  Most DEMs provide services in birth settings that are outside of medical institutions, primarily freestanding birth centers and private homes. 

For additional resources or changes to our current contacts, please contact the Midwives Alliance at region6@mana.org.

Addressing Diversity: Contemporary Midwives’ Perceptions of Organizational Diversity Initiatives

Posted by MANA Community Manager on October 18th, 2013

Last week, I had the pleasure of talking with Keisha Goode, PhDc, who is unfortunately unable to present her dissertation findings at the upcoming 31st annual Midwives Alliance Convention on Birthing Social Change due to a last minute family emergency. Luckily, I got to talk with her extensively about her work, and you can view her slides here. Her presentation “In Their Own Words: Experiences of Contemporary Black Midwives in the United States,” addresses experiences of race and how perceptions of race impacts how we address creating social change, equal access and providing quality health care for all women.

Kate Dimpfl: Let’s start off by talking about how you came to this work. What drew you to talking about race and racism in midwifery?

Keisha Goode: I started as a literacy teacher and when I thought about doctoral education, I first thought about connecting maternal education and literacy amongst black students. However, something about it didn’t move me.

Then I started to explore black motherhood in general and then as it relates birth, I noticed the historical midwifery literature for black midwives focused primarily on granny midwifes. Out of my own curiosity, I started to look at what was happening with black midwives now.

I was fascinated by how relatively few, black midwives currently are operating in the US, especially in terms of history, and I wanted to figure out why.

KD: How do you think our current system of midwifery training and education impacts entry into the field for black women?

KG: I was surprised to discover that regardless of age, [black women’s] perceptions of midwifery education and access to education were pretty similar.

I think that a lot of progress has been made, but one thing that strikes me is that issues of “belongingness” are still present. The feeling of trust or care or respect for black students in education is a consistent issue.

If a goal is to diversify the core of midwives, there has to be a space and acknowledgement that racial diversity is a real issue, and then how do you navigate that head-on in midwifery programs? That looks like having people of color teaching and working inside of midwifery programs, even online. People have to see someone who looks like them. Race can’t be the introductory class, but needs to be deeply imbedded throughout the curriculum. This means having difficult but essential conversations about race.

But to move beyond diversity initiatives to become more substantive, it needs to starts with acknowledgment that there is an issue and putting more structural things in place to address it, like addressing race throughout the curriculum, scholarships and funding for midwives of color, access to mentors or preceptorships.

KD: Let’s explore some of the research outcomes you wanted to highlight in your presentation. How do black midwives experience the current healthcare crisis?

KG: I think [perceptions of the health care crisis in the US] are similar to other racial groups, but the main point I wanted to make in that part of the findings, is similar to how black midwives also interpret the high black maternal and infant mortality rates.

Simply put, race is so deeply imbedded in every aspect of our society and social institutions. Access to health care and quality of health care are so deeply connected to race and has real outcomes. Being black and pregnant is very different than being in another racial group.

I was fascinated by stories from the midwives of how the everyday living as a black pregnant woman impacts her health, her baby and the birthing moment. Issues of mortality and morbidity are related to social interactions as well as other maternal health issues.

(Here is a good clip from Michael Lu, MD that also illustrates this point).

KD: How can we support black women to overcome real racial challenges in her pregnancy and her ability to access midwifery care?

KG: It is hard to implement “eliminating racism” as a tangible policy change, and while policy helps with access to care, that isn’t the full issue.

We see [how midwifery care positively impacts] black women and their babies. And while this wasn’t a major research question, I saw that impact of media on black women’s perception of black midwives, in that they either don’t exist or are somehow “less than.”

There is an opportunity to shift the framework of how black women see black midwives and to encourage black women to see it as an option for safe, quality care. It is truly a lack of awareness that midwifery care is an option. Positive images in the media help.

Diversifying the cultural imagination of black women perpetuated in the media-reifying tropes of the mammy, “angry black woman” and the like-do little create space for counter-narratives, i.e. the level of experience, education and professionalism that is midwifery.

KD: You shared some ways to counteract institutional racism in midwifery education. Would you apply any of those techniques to shifting these larger cultural perceptions of black midwives?

KG: When women are pregnant they need to see images of black midwives. There is a huge absence of these images in shows like The Baby Story or even in stock photos. At first I thought this point seemed small, but we see so many images in a day. To see images of black women birthing with black midwives inside or outside the hospital is powerful.

We also need a prominent spokesperson for women of color and midwives of color, much like Erykah Badu is doing for the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, or like Ricki Lake is doing for homebirth. Also the researchers or policy makers who are invested in talking about race- and they don’t have to be black- need to address how to counter those messages in the media. We need more research like this, and more policy makers who are putting race as one of the pieces amongst other issues.

KD: What are some of the biggest surprises that you have experienced in your research?

KG: I was surprised that there wasn’t more cohesion among the various types of midwives, which creates tensions. I was surprised and saddened by the politics of the perceptions of the different types of midwifery, which can take away from access to and quality of care for women and girls. This speaks to a need for more clarity and collaboration to eliminate those tensions that prevent everyone from reaching common goals. This must first begin at the level of professional midwifery organizations.

Another surprise was the overall feeling from the black midwives I talked to that the larger organizational conventions weren’t addressing things that were applicable in their own communities, so willingness to participate was less. There is decline in participation in these larger groups because their needs were not met, but they are missing the benefit to being a part of the larger organizations.

One way to address this is to make sure that disparities are touched upon in a very real way throughout the convention, and it was good to see that the 2013 MANA convention seems to reflect that.

KD: What do you want everyone to understand when it comes to black midwives experience in midwifery education?

KG: Midwifery education, midwifery organizations, and research/policy would be my top agenda items. First, in terms of education, don’t make the mistake of advertising for black midwives or underserved groups without insuring that there are structural things in place: funding, scholarships, mentorship, faculty of color and race woven into the curriculum.

For the midwifery organizations, it is kind of the same thing in terms of planning a convention: ensuring that what you are saying about addressing racial disparities-in policy documents, websites etc.- is translated clearly through the convention. That might look like diverse board representation, scholarships for black midwives, and making sure that conventions are safe and welcoming spaces to address race in a meaningful, substantive way.

Lastly, in terms of research and policy, midwifery should have the goal of being more cohesive as a community to create legislative and policy changes as well as creating more opportunities for midwifery research. I see evidence of this happening and am very hopeful.

KD: What do individuals at the convention need to have in their awareness so they are able to create better outcomes for black women in their own community?

KG: Good question. I think the main thing is to understand the ways in which race and power are so deeply entrenched into midwifery and birth. The idea that midwifery is colorblind is an illusion. Acknowledging race isn’t being racist. Race has real impacts on black women and birth outcomes.

The experience of black women working with a black midwife is going to be different- not better or worse – but different than working with a white midwife. I would also say that continuing to do the work of educating - that midwifery is safe, high quality, cost effective and that ground level teaching is important for everyone, but particularly for black women.

Meet Keisha:

Keisha Goode, PhDc, is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the City University of New
York Graduate Center. With the advisement of Barbara Katz Rothman, she is completing her dissertation entitled “Contemporary Black Midwives in the United States: Experiences and Perceptions” which explores the impact of race and racism in midwifery education programs, organizations, and birth outcomes. She is a lecturer in Sociology and Women’s Studies at Lehman College. She earned a Master of Arts in Women’s Studies from the George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland, College Park. Email Keisha for further information about the study.

Author Bio:

Kate Dimpfl, CCE, CD, runs Holistic Childbirth and works as a childbirth educator and doula in Ithaca, NY. When not talking about birth she is walking about town with her family. To learn more about Kate, visit: www.holisticchildbirth.org.

Photo credit: bitsybaby.com

Birthing Social Change FREE Pre-Convention Session Oct 24

Posted by MANA Community Manager on October 7th, 2013

As a part of the Birthing Social Change: MANA 2013 Annual Convention, MANA is offering a free pre-convention session, designed to help us all work towards a more inclusive profession and greater equity in maternal and infant health. The following post was written by the session leaders (including Annie Menzel CPM, PhC; Wendy Gordon CPM, LM, MPH; Gretchen Spicer CPM, LM; Laura McNeill Groundwork Antiracism Collective Trainer;  Elizabeth Bruno, Groundwork Antiracism Collective Trainer; Marijke van Roojen, LM, CPM) to help us learn more about what to expect. To register, please click hereCEUS have been applied for with ACNM and MEAC.

The 2013 Midwives’ Alliance Convention website says that at “the heart of MANA’s goals” is the mission of “supporting equal access to high quality maternity care for all women and their families.” We can all get behind this aspiration. But how exactly do we translate it into practice? This full-day pre-convention workshop will help to equip midwives to understand three crucial themes that will help lay the groundwork for moving from aspiration to action:

1) the current racial and economic inequalities in access to good care, reflected in worse maternal and infant health among communities of color

Midwives are already working hard to care for many women who are not well served by the system of mainstream maternity care—women in rural areas, women in plain communities, low-income women, young women and older moms.

Many midwives put themselves at legal risk to provide this care, and to keep the crucial option of homebirth open. As we well know, the system of maternity care in the United States is far from ideal across the board. But as a group, white women, especially middle-class and affluent white women, tend to have the most and best options, including midwives from their own communities. 

In contrast, women of color, especially low-income African American, Native, Southeast Asian, and Latina women, have the fewest options for quality maternity care—including very few (if any) midwives from their own communities. The workshop will highlight the connections between these inequalities of access to midwifery education and care and the broader systems of racial and economic injustice in this country.

Using activities incorporating movement and breath; listening and response; and audiovisual resources,we will also demonstrate the ways that these large systems of inequity come to harm the individual lives and health of moms, babies, and families of color, while tending to benefit the lives and health of white moms, babies, and families.

2) the history of how these inequalities came about, and the role that US midwifery has played

Understanding the current state of inequality in access to and outcomes of maternity care will help us move toward change. Through a participatory timeline exercise, we will trace this history.

We will situate the history of midwifery within the broader history of reproductive inequality and violence, from experimentation on enslaved African American women to the sterilization of women of color and institutionalized and incarcerated women, as well as strategies of survival and resilience within communities of color.

We will track the ways that midwifery has been both a history of healing and a history of racial injustice, from Native American midwifery to enslaved African American healers; from the work of Black, Mexican-American, Asian-American, and European-American community midwives to the medical and state campaigns to eliminate them; from the re-emergence of white midwives in the 1970s, which failed to acknowledge much of this history, to present-day barriers to access to midwifery education, care, and professional inclusion for practitioners of color. We will also learn about ways that midwives and birth workers of color have challenged these barriers.

3) what “supporting equal access” would really mean and require for individual midwives, our professional organizations, and our educational institutions.

Together, we will look forward and learn how to make changes in our practices and our day-to-day lives, including small steps you can take right away.

Using role-playing exercises that draw upon participants’ real life experiences, we will practice recognizing and responding to racist speech and situations. We will also think together about how white midwives can apply existing models of antiracist collective action and accountability to midwifery. We will learn about exciting projects for equity in maternal and infant health led by community midwives of color. Brainstorming with others from our regions, we will identify steps toward long-term plans for supporting these projects and dismantling barriers to education and professional inclusion.

In order to build on the learning that we gain, the momentum that we generate, and the connections that we make through this workshop, the facilitators also plan to hold follow-up discussions during the convention, time and locations TBA.

Please join us! Everyone is welcome. Working together to understand ways that whiteness shapes midwifery practices will give us crucial tools for “birthing social change” toward equity in maternity care and real inclusivity in our profession.

While we welcome and encourage everyone to attend the full convention, all birth professionals and student birth professionals are welcome. The session is free and registration is required. Please click here for signup information.

************************************************************************

NEW EVENT!

We will be viewing Cracking the Codes, a new film that asks America to talk about the causes and consequences of systemic inequity. Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequityfeatures moving stories from racial justice leaders including Amer Ahmed, Michael Benitez, Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo, Joy DeGruy, Ericka Huggins, Humaira Jackson, Yuko Kodama, Peggy McIntosh, Rinku Sen, Tilman Smith and Tim Wise.

When: Friday 7 pm

Location: TBA at convention

Who: Anyone attending the MANA convention is welcome - you do not need to have attended the full-day workshop to participate.

Updated MANA Community Policy

Posted by MANA Community Manager on October 4th, 2013

Dear members of the MANA community:

Thank you all for the warm welcome the blog has received. We are very grateful for your input, your feedback, and most of all, your community.

Our goal in launching the blog and all of our online communications is to create a safe space for those who want to discuss evidence-based information about midwifery (and related topics). To ensure that we can maintain that safe space, we have had in place for some time a set of community guidelines, which you can find here.

We welcome and encourage healthy dissent within our community. Our goal as an organization is to ensure high quality, empowering, women-centered maternity care as exemplified by the midwifery model of care. (To learn more about our goals, mission, and vision, read here.) Sometimes that means tough conversations, and we are ready and willing to meet those head on, with openness and transparency.

We also know that these conversations will not achieve the full participation of our community if some members feel as if their comments are subject to bullying or harassment.

To ensure the highest level of debate, we are going to modify our comment policy.

For a comment to be published, it must include your first and last name, and may be verified via e-mail. As with most comment systems, your e-mail will be required for you to leave a post. Your e-mail will not be published on the MANA site and will be kept private - we request it so that we can contact you if necessary. (If there are special circumstances in which you’d like to keep your name private, please leave a comment explaining the situation and we’ll discuss it privately. When that happens, we’ll agree on a solution and let the group know our joint thinking.)

All comments must be relevant to the post or topic. If we have already answered a question you posted, we may refer you to previous responses and/or not publish your comment. If your comment does not directly correspond with the post it will not be posted.

Please honor and recognize that MANA is a volunteer-driven organization. We do our best to moderate comments quickly, but may not always be able to publish comments as fast as we’d like.

You can view the newly updated policy here. If you have questions, comments, or thoughts about our policy, this post is the place to share them! We look forward to deepening the conversation with the MANA community.

Honoring Grand Midwife Umm Salaamah “Sondra” Abdullah-Zaimah

Posted by MANA Community Manager on October 2nd, 2013

“Every community should have their own midwife. Someone who understands their culture, who they already trust, who is a part of their community, who they’ve known since they were children.” ~ Umm Salaamah “Sondra” Abdullah-Zaimah, MN, CNM, CPM

Umm Salaamah “Sondra” Abdullah-Zaimah will be turning 70 this month and has been practicing midwifery for nearly 35 years. She will be honored this year at the upcoming MANA convention with the Sage Femme Award. MANA volunteer Nermari Broderick recently interviewed Umm Salaamah so we could all learn more about her and her work.

Umm Salaamah’s career began when she was seeking maternity care options for her daughter and goddaughter, both teenage mothers-to-be with a high distrust of the health care system.

“I found a group of midwives working with a doctor at a free clinic in the Bronx, but by the time I found them, she was five months pregnant, so they wouldn’t take her on,” said Umm Salaamah. “I had been through the emergency childbirth training that they gave police officers. Both of those babies were born at home, during a snow storm that shut everything down. Only the national guard was out in New York City.” Both mothers and babies were healthy and as Umm Salaamah describes it, “I was dumb and lucky. Blessed, really.”

Umm Salaamah was studying to become a nurse with the goal of becoming a nurse midwife when her daughter became pregnant again. This time, Umm Salaamah reached out to Ina May Gaskin and the Farm community for training. Recalling an initial training at the Farm, Umm Salaamah says, “I fell in love with how they did things at the Farm. I came home, I quit my job, I bought a van and wrote a letter and told Ina May I was on my way.”

Umm Salaamah spent two years on the Farm, and then returned home to her family in Brooklyn to work with her community. She went on to also become a certified nurse midwife and has worked with communities across the country and the world, including Georgia, Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Honduras, Ghana and many others. She has helped to launch or support a number of international projects, including a maternal health clinic in Senegal. Sharing her insights with others working internationally: “If you go in with an attitude of respect and love, you see other people - as if they are your sister, your daughter, your mother. If you don’t see the outside of a person, but you see that they love their children, want the best for their children, they want the same things you want, if you love them and respect them and are willing to share, rather than coming to tell people what to do, you have a much, much better relationship and you are in a position to learn. It has to be a sharing, compassionate, loving relationship.”

She is particularly focused on ensuring that her knowledge - and the knowledge of other elder midwives - gets shared with the next generation of midwives. “The more I can train women to recognize when they need to transport, to recognize problems, and pass those on, the more I am sharing good practices among women. There’s an African proverb that says if you teach a man, you teach an individual. If you teach a woman, you teach a nation. She is going to share with her community.”

Umm Salaamah has devoted significant time and energy to the midwifery community, including serving on the MANA board, chairing the committee that became the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) and serving on the NARM board.

Umm Salaamah provides critical support to a number of organizations, including serving as the midwifery director for Birthing Project USA, an international organization and resource center for improving birth outcomes for women of color. She is a founding member and director of midwifery education of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing. The organization was created to promote the health of women and their families and to train Black women aspiring to become midwives.

She is also a founder of Midwives On the Move (MOM). MOM is a committed group of midwives, aspiring midwives, doulas, nurses, birth activists, consumers and volunteers working together in the U.S. and Ghana, West Africa, to exchange midwifery skills, knowledge and ideas.

Today, one of her goals is to ensure that all women have access to community-based midwifery. “I think that every community should have their own midwife, someone who understands their culture who they already trust, someone who is a part of their community, who has known them since they are children. I don’t think it is good for a people to have to take their most most vulnerable members - their pregnant women and brand new babies - off to another culture, that is not always respecting their rituals or their culture.”

One midwife is chosen each year to be the recipient of The Sage Femme award. It honors a grand midwife, past or present, who has practiced the art of midwifery over many years. One whose work, perseverance and dedication will serve as an inspiration to midwives future and present. Learn more about the Sage Femme award and MANA’S 2013 convention, Birthing Social Change.

Nermarí Faría Broderick is one of MANA’s volunteer online community managers. A mother of three (soon to be four), she is very passionate about birth and midwifery since she became pregnant with her first over seven years ago. In her day job, she does public relations. You can find her on twitter at @justNermari

[eds. note - new photo added 10/8, provided by Aima Bey]

Syndicate content