While sociologists have long explored health and illness, much of it has been androcentric and White-centered. Scholars began to focus more on women’s health including pregnancy and birth in the 1970s yet have historically largely ignored Black women’s birth experiences. Midwifery in the United States was once the standard practice for prenatal care and birth. However, the vast majority of births have been medicalized and now occur in hospital settings. In this review, I will highlight the role of race in the historical shifts in the provision of care to Black pregnant and birthing women, the marginalization of Black midwives historically and currently, medical racism, outcomes of laws in the 20th century, the voices of Black midwives and mothers, the activism of radical Black birth organizations and finally, how increasing access to midwifery care may help address current racialized crises in maternal and infant mortality. Midwifery care typically leads to excellent physical and emotional outcomes for low risk mothers and infants, and reduces reliance on medical interventions. As the United States currently has alarming racialized rates of maternal and infant mortality despite vast medicalization, there is much to consider about increasing access to midwifery care in the United States.
Suarez A. Black midwifery in the United States: Past, present, and future. Sociology Compass. 2020;e12829. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12829