FREE TRAINING Understanding Systemic Racism in Maternity Care: The Voices of Black Researchers

by Jun 17, 20207 comments

Update: Public access to the June 2020 VBAC Facts Grand Rounds has expired, but the resource list and link to the studies remain available below.

The Grand Rounds is still accessible to VBAC Facts Professional Members. Membership is for perinatal professionals who are passionate about increasing VBAC access in their community. Membership enables you to easily integrate the VBAC evidence into your practice so you can confidently communicate the facts to your clients. Sliding scale available for BIPOC. Learn more here.

Normally, our monthly VBAC Facts grand rounds consist of recently published research relevant to perinatal professionals who believe in increasing access to vaginal birth after cesarean. But this month, we wanted to focus on systemic racism in maternity care by lifting the voices of the following Black researchers:

Lucinda Canty, RN, MSN, CNM is a midwife, teacher and researcher in Connecticut. Read her professional biography, listen to a radio interview with her discussing the importance of doulas, and look at her beautiful artwork illustrating the experience of being black and pregnant in the US.

Canty, Lucinda (2020) “It’s Not Always Rainbows and Unicorns: The Lived Experience of Severe Maternal Morbidity among Black Women”. Doctoral Dissertations. 2426. https://opencommons.uconn.edu/dissertations/2426

Karen Scott, MPH, MD, FACOG is an OBGyn and researcher at USCF. Well, really she calls herself a  “dissident, disruptive, and recovering” board certified OB GYN and she often speaks up against injustice in obstetric circles. She is currently running a research project, The SACRED Birth Study, which looks to support community led change to find equitable quality improvements to end violence and gendered racism in hospitals.

Scott, K. A., Britton, L., & McLemore, M. R. (2019). The ethics of perinatal care for black women: dismantling the structural racism in “Mother Blame” narratives. The Journal of perinatal & neonatal nursing, 33(2), 108-115. https://doi.org/10.1097/jpn.0000000000000394

Monica McLemore, RN, PhD, FAAN is a PhD nurse researcher at UCSF who focuses her teaching and research efforts on reproductive justice for people with uteruses. McLemore was just featured in an interview discussing Black Maternal Health and COVID-19 and she consistently speaks out about health equity injustice.

Franck, L. S., McLemore, M. R., Williams, S., Millar, K., Gordon, A. Y., Williams, S., … & Nelson, F. (2020). Research priorities of women at risk for preterm birth: findings and a call to action. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 20(1), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2664-1

Shafia Monroe, DEM, CDT, MPH is a Midwifery, community organizer and educator. She is a founding member of many organizations working for change for black birthing people including Shafia Monroe Consulting and ICTC (now the NAABB). She also provides cultural competency consultation and continuing education for providers and organizations.

Monroe, S. M. (2020). Perinatal Disparities and Solutions. North Carolina Medical Journal, 81(1), 56-57. https://doi.org/10.18043/ncm.81.1.56

Ifeyinwa Asiodu, RN, PhD, IBCLC is a postdoctoral nurse researcher at USCF. Asiodu writes in popular magazines and academic journals about intersectionality and breastfeeding among African American women. She works with organizations like the Black Infant Health and Black Mamas Matter Alliance to center the experiences of black breastfeeding women.

Rutherford, J. N., Asiodu, I. V., & Liese, K. L. (2019). Reintegrating modern birth practice within ancient birth process: What high cesarean rates ignore about physiologic birth. American Journal of Human Biology, 31(2), e23229. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.23229


Black Midwives and Organizations You Should Support

Racha Tahani Lawler at Crimson Fig http://crimsonfig.com/ venmo: @crimsonfigmidwife

Kimberly Durdin at Kindred Space Birth Center  https://www.gofundme.com/f/KindredBIrthCenter

Jennie Joseph at Commonsense Childbirth https://commonsensechildbirth.org/donate-2/

Debbie Allen at Tribe Midwifery https://www.tribemidwifery.com/

Haize Hawke Rosen https://www.gofundme.com/f/arpb2y-black-midwifery-support

Rebecca Polston at Roots Community Birth Center https://www.gofundme.com/f/birthcenter

Equity in Midwifery Education https://www.equitymidwifery.org/scholarships-financial-aid

Abide Support Black Student Midwives https://www.abidewomen.org/abide-t-shirts

Black Mamas Matter Alliance https://blackmamasmatter.org/about/

National Black Midwives Alliance https://blackmidwivesalliance.org/

National Association to Advance Black Birth https://thenaabb.org/

Shafia Monroe Consulting https://shafiamonroe.com/

Sista Midwife Productions https://www.sistamidwife.com/

Sister Song Reproductive Justice https://www.sistersong.net/reproductive-justice

Please leave a comment below or contact me to add Black midwives or organizations to this list.


Book List (Links will direct you to Black owned bookstores)

Oluo, I. (2019). So you want to talk about race. Seal Press.
Oparah, J. C., & Bonaparte, A. D. (Eds.). (2015). Birthing justice: Black women, pregnancy, and childbirth. Routledge.
 Ross, L., GutiŽrrez, E., Gerber, M., & Silliman, J. (2016). Undivided rights: Women of color organizing for reproductive justice. Haymarket Books.



Antiracism Resources for White Folks bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES

Harvard’s Project Implicit https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

RPAC Process https://www.jove.com/video/56220/a-novel-method-for-involving-women-color-at-high-risk-for-preterm


Other References

Backes, E. P., & Scrimshaw, S. C. (Eds.). (2020). National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; Board on Children, Youth, and Families; Committee on Assessing Health Outcomes by Birth Settings.  Birth Settings in America: Outcomes, Quality, Access, and Choice. National Academies Press (US). https://doi.org/10.17226/25636

Daw, J. R., Kolenic, G. E., Dalton, V. K., Zivin, K., Winkelman, T., Kozhimannil, K. B., & Admon, L. K. (2020). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Perinatal Insurance Coverage. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 135(4), 917. https://dx.doi.org/10.1097%2FAOG.0000000000003728

Feinstein, L., McWhorter, K. L., Gaston, S. A., Troxel, W. M., Sharkey, K. M., & Jackson, C. L. (2020). Racial/ethnic disparities in sleep duration and sleep disturbances among pregnant and non‐pregnant women in the United States. Journal of Sleep Research, e13000. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.13000

Gupta, R., & Froeb, K. (2020). Preterm Birth: Two Startling Trends, One Call to Action. The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, 34(2), 99-103. https://doi.org/10.1097/jpn.0000000000000469

Jahn, J. L., Chen, J. T., Agénor, M., & Krieger, N. (2020). County-level jail incarceration and preterm birth among non-Hispanic Black and white US women, 1999–2015. Social Science & Medicine, 112856. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.112856

Janevic, T., Zeitlin, J., Egorova, N., Hebert, P. L., Balbierz, A., & Howell, E. A. (2020). Neighborhood Racial And Economic Polarization, Hospital Of Delivery, And Severe Maternal Morbidity: An examination of whether racial and economic neighborhood polarization is associated with severe maternal morbidity rates and whether the delivery hospital partially explains the association. Health Affairs, 39(5), 768-776. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00735

Johnson, J. D., Green, C. A., Vladutiu, C. J., & Manuck, T. A. (2020). Racial Disparities in Prematurity Persist among Women of High Socioeconomic Status. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology MFM, 100104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajogmf.2020.100104

Kim, Y., Vohra-Gupta, S., Margerison, C. E., & Cubbin, C. (2020b). Neighborhood Racial/Ethnic Composition Trajectories and Black-White Differences in Preterm Birth among Women in Texas. Journal of Urban Health, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-019-00411-y

Kim, S., Im, E. O., Liu, J., & Ulrich, C. (2020a). Maternal Age Patterns of Preterm Birth: Exploring the Moderating Roles of Chronic Stress and Race/Ethnicity. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1093/abm/kaaa008

Leimert, K. B., & Olson, D. M. (2020). Racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes: genetics, epigenetics, and allostatic load. Current Opinion in Physiology, 13, 155-165.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cophys.2019.12.003

Riggan, K. A., Gilbert, A., & Allyse, M. A. (2020). Acknowledging and Addressing Allostatic Load in Pregnancy Care. Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-020-00757-z

Shrimali, B. P., Pearl, M., Karasek, D., Reid, C., Abrams, B., & Mujahid, M. (2020). Neighborhood Privilege, Preterm Delivery, and Related Racial/Ethnic Disparities: An Intergenerational Application of the Index of Concentration at the Extremes. American Journal of Epidemiology. https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwz279

Tandy, E. C. (1940). The Health Situation of Negro Mothers and Babies in the United States. A Brief Statement of Health Status, Health Services, and Needs… US Department of labor, Children’s Bureau. http://resource.nlm.nih.gov/25922060R

What do you think?
Leave a comment.

What do you think? Leave a comment.


  1. What a great and illuminating presentation about systemic racism and its subsequent outcomes. I am a perinatal mental health provider and often support black and brown women during pregnancy and postpartum with their depression and anxiety. It’s so important that we learn and do more for these moms and families. No one should be okay that “being black” is a risk factor!!!

  2. Thank you Jen, this was excellently done. Another excellent non-profit to support, largely serving Black birthing ppl in the DC area is Mamatoto Village.

    And a black midwife in training with a current fundraiser is @muslima.amatullah on IG and her fundraiser link is here:


  3. Thank you very much for this presentation! It had motivated me in my own birth professional journey, that I have been working towards.

  4. Thank you so much for bringing this valuable information to the community. I am an IECMH Therapist so this research is extremely helpful for the families and populations that I work with. I wasn’t surprised by the data. I’ve been in healthcare since 1990 in various roles. It’s really troubling that our medical structure has not changed to decrease the morbidity and mortality rate for African American women and babies.

  5. Very insightful studies about assuring women of color are heard. Reducing systemic practices in delivery. Shocked that the discussion did not cover the subject of obstetrics founding and abuse of pregnant enslaved women as the start of the negative cycles. Glad to hear that there are efforts to gain community coverage for doulas and midwives in underserved areas. Very good presentation

    • Yes, it would have been great to include the history of gynecology in the US. There is so much to learn and discuss! I wanted to keep it at an hour and focus more on the recent work of Black researchers.


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Jen Kamel

As a nationally recognized consumer advocate and Founder of VBAC Facts®, Jen helps perinatal professionals, and cesarean parents, achieve clarity on vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) through her educational courses for parents, online membership for professionals, continuing education trainings, and consulting services. She speaks at conferences across the country, presents Grand Rounds at hospitals, advises advocates seeking legislative change in their state, and serves as a expert witness in legal proceedings. She envisions a time when every pregnant person seeking VBAC has access to unbiased information, respectful providers, and community support, so they can plan the birth of their choosing in the setting they desire.

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