Midwife Jennie Joseph Honored In TIME Magazine’s 12 Women Of The Year
Why Jennie Joseph’s work is important. Read the full report on the US “having the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations” here.
- The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. Obstetrician-gynecologists (ob-gyns) are overrepresented in its maternity care workforce relative to midwives, and there is an overall shortage of maternity care providers (both ob-gyns and midwives) relative to births. In most other countries, midwives outnumber ob-gyns by severalfold, and primary care plays a central role in the health system. Although a large share of its maternal deaths occur postbirth, the U.S. is the only country not to guarantee access to provider home visits or paid parental leave in the postpartum period.
- The U.S. has a relative undersupply of maternity care providers, especially midwives, and lacks comprehensive postpartum supports.
Deeply horrified by the American medical model’s treatment of pregnant women and babies when she arrived in the United States in the 80s, British-trained midwife Jennie Joseph successfully worked to create an evidence-based model of prenatal care for women, especially women of color who are three to five times more likely to die in childbirth in the US than white mothers. Her pioneering work includes providing human connection and empowering education, while also training mothers, fathers and extended family members to identify and arrest the cascade of interventions inside the hospital birth system that lead to complications and death.
Treating her patients well is not the only reason that Joseph has become one of the pre-eminent advocates of — and a national role model for — midwifery in the U.S. Her philosophy, which she calls the “JJ Way,” is much more ambitious. It’s about leveraging the power of midwifery to support a pregnant person before and after they give birth, to draw on community-based care, and to avoid unnecessary interventions. And it’s about using those methods not only to provide the best possible care for individuals, but also to disrupt a system that Joseph says has led to racial and socio-economic disparities in maternal health care.
Jennie Joseph’s interview with Kindred in 2018 aligned with the first annual Black Maternal Health Week from April 11-17, 2018, and the March for Moms on Washington, DC, on May 6, 2018, where women demanded the implementation of missing public policies and social safety nets to support mothers and babies found in most developed countries. As Jennie says in the Kindred interview, “the only way forward now is grassroots movements of individuals and organizations acting collaboratively and intentionally as a consciousness-raising movement to save ourselves from an unyielding, capitalist and deadly medical system.”
Why TIME Magazine Chose Jennie Joseph
From the TIME interview here.
The culture around midwifery in the U.S. has begun to shift, driven in part by COVID-19, which overwhelmed hospitals and renewed interest in alternative ways to give birth, and in part by the advocates like the Congressional Black Maternal Health Caucus, which has succeeded in pushing legislation to improve maternal health. Last spring, Congress voted to allow states to extend Medicaid coverage for mothers up to one year after they give birth, and last fall, President Joe Biden signed the first bill in a package that would invest in studying and addressing racial disparities in maternal care.
Joseph is on the forefront of this shift. In 2020, she became the first Black person in the U.S. to privately own a nationally accredited midwifery school, where she is increasing the ranks of Black midwives, training other health workers around the country in midwifery principles, and developing a national network of like-minded providers.
“We’re building power, we’re building momentum,” she says. “We’re building a movement.”
Listen to and read the transcript for Kindred’s interview: Undermining A Deadly Maternal Health System.
Read the TIME magazine article Jennie Jospeh being included in this year’s 100 Women of the Year here.
Read the full report with statistics and charts: Maternal Mortality and Maternity Care in the United States Compared to 10 Other Developed Countries
Listen to and read Kindred’s podcast on March For Moms, #MeToo, Birth Trauma, And Ending Medical Model Patriarchy.
Find Jennie Joseph at www.jenniejoseph.com
Find more resources on Black Maternal Health on Kindred.
Find more information about the March for Moms at www.improvingbirth.org
Find more resources and information on Black Maternal Health Week at www.blackmamasmatter.org.