In the Midst of the Black Maternal Health Crisis, Could Midwives Be the Answer?

This time last year, things looked idyllic for Elaine Welteroth as she entered the third trimester of pregnancy. She had a loving and supportive partner by her side. After leaving her post as editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue in 2018, her career was booming as she transitioned to television and other media. On her babymoon on an island in Mexico, she took stunning photos, her baby bump peeking out of a stylish maternity bikini and framed against the white sand and blue skies.

But the pictures obscured a grimmer truth. The author and Project Runway judge had found herself unexpectedly pregnant after a cross-country move to Los Angeles and was feeling isolated. On many days, she couldn't get out of bed because of debilitating pelvic pain caused by a condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) that affects up to one-third of pregnant women. And adding to her stress, she still hadn't found an obstetrician to deliver her first baby—a decision that can be life-or-death for Black women who continue to stare down the barrel of a horrifying and uniquely American maternal mortality crisis.

The statistics are bleak but so oft-repeated and seemingly immutable that they've lost their shock value. They shouldn't. The U.S. maternal mortality rate, on the rise for the past 20 years, is three times the rate of other high-income nations. And Black women are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications.

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