Peacock Scholarship

Misconceptions & Missed Opportunities: How the Delegitimization of Midwifery in the United States is Keeping Maternal Mortality Rates Unacceptably High

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The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Over 700 mothers die each year from pregnancy-related complications, 60% of which are preventable. Numerous research studies support the increased integration of midwives in health care systems because it is key to producing optimal maternal-newborn outcomes. However, less than 10% of births in the United States are attended by midwives, compared to 50-75% of births in other industrialized nations, all of which demonstrating substantially lower maternal mortality rates. The practice of midwifery has been marginalized and delegitimized despite midwives producing similar or better outcomes than physicians with lower costs and less unnecessary medical interventions. Another advantage of utilizing midwives is their ability to reach socially disadvantaged groups, such as non-Hispanic black women who suffer the greatest number of maternal deaths. The historic shift away from midwifery and to medicine in the 20th century has been perpetuated by the fallacy that childbirth is a pathological process that only physicians are equipped to manage. This thesis focused on how women’s fears of childbirth and misperceptions of midwives have led to the normalcy of hospital, physician-attended births and may have subsequently elevated maternal mortality rates.

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  • 06/11/2020
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