Shortage in Black midwives is causing concern during pandemic

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Ulrike Schmidt felt the pull to do something. 

She’s been a midwife for more than three years, but lately what’s happening across the nation pushed her to start a grassroots movement. 

“Honestly, for me it just feels important in the spirit of equity and in the spirit reparations, you know, just to be sort of correcting these problems that have real systemic racist roots,” said Schmidt. 

The mom of three is among a group raising awareness and money to help make midwifery care accessible.

“It is the goal of this campaign to provide funds to Black women and individuals in the Austin area, to help offset some of the out-of-pocket costs associated with midwifery care and home birth,” said the group on its GoFundMe page.

Black midwife shortage

Schmidt said she’s among three Black midwives in Austin.

Aisha Ralph just became certified and is already getting calls from Black moms just finding out their pregnant.

“When women are able to have access to culturally aligned care from someone that looks like them… outcomes are better,” explained Ralph. “Women report feeling more secure in the birth experience. They report having better birth outcomes. They report fewer cesarean sections.”

Ralph is also a doula with Black Mamas ATX. The non-profit, which works on maternal health disparities, recently applied for a grant which would help bring in its first midwife. 

“We have to understand that it does make a very significant difference in the lives of Black women, in the lives of women of color, when they are able to have that care come from someone who represents them in a very real way,” said Ralph.

Providing more options

Advocacy organizations tell KXAN investigators that since the pandemic there’s been an increase in women moving towards home births.

Ralph said she’s heard from moms ready to make the switch.

Schmidt has also noticed the shift and explained why the fundraising campaign is so critical.

She said donations would help Black moms whose insurance company’s don’t cover home births, and who can’t pay the thousands of dollars out of pocket. 

“It’s important that you find somebody that you connect with, and resonate with, and feel safe with,” said Schmidt. “Those things are important to improve outcomes overall.”

Schmidt explained that she’s heard from Black moms who would feel more comfortable giving birth at home with a Black midwife. She thinks that one way to recruit is to help financially with tuition and supplies.

“It’s about community. It’s about caring about each other. I mean, really it’s like what the world needs more of,” said Schmidt. 

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