By Dinah Waranch
I am a midwife. For years, women have come to see me full of anxiety about birth and the maternity system.
To that, now add that they fear for their lives.
Black women particularly walk into my birth center eyes wide, their muscles taut with anxiety. Black women are twice as likely as white women to die in childbirth or soon after.
The Texas Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity has been working the last few years to root out the causes of our worsening maternal mortality and to put measures in place to reverse course. This is a huge job that requires more than a few well-meaning professionals and system tweaks. This problem requires deep, ongoing public engagement and deep structural change. The task force must be broadly representative of all Texans affected. It must hear their voices: the women, their families, and the providers of care. It must address the problem with out-of-the box thinking, gleaning ideas from all states and especially from overseas, where maternal mortality continues to plummet with rates glaringly superior to our own.
The current Texas Task Force is full of highly qualified individuals devoting hours of their time without remuneration. They are reviewing cases, gathering input, and they have come up with some preliminary implementation steps (the “AIM bundles”). We applaud their efforts.
But it is all grossly inadequate. The stories of the women must be told — not via redacted health records but by people’s lived experiences — to fully understand the functioning or malfunctioning of the system.
And the solutions offered must be not only institutionally based but community based, involving healthcare and social support at the community level for every woman from preconception through the postpartum year. That is the only way community-based issues that are inextricably bound up with outcomes can be addressed.
That is why we will be going to Austin on Friday, March 15, and filming the stories of women and their families — particularly women of color.
We need women and their stories. Do you have the experience of knowing someone who died in childbirth or soon afterward? Have you had a life-threatening experience yourself? We need the media spotlight. We need you. Will you join us? Here are some details:
- Thursday, March 14: We will film stories of women in the Austin area (we will do the same in the Dallas area by arrangement).
- Friday, March 15: EDPW will hold a press conference at 8:30 am outside the offices of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
If you can help or have a story to share, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dinah Waranch is a certified nurse midwife and the owner of a birth center, serving majority Medicaid population in Richardson, Texas. Her educational background is in midwifery, nursing, political science, and urban planning.