Shafia Monroe Birthing Change

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The History of the African American Midwife

African American midwife at the turn of the century.

The historical role of the African American midwife was one of hope and health; whose expertise helped define cultural perceptions of motherhood, protected, uplifted and empowered women and men, and improved maternity care in communities across the nation.

The African American midwife was the keeper of traditions and a spiritual ritualist. She held a respected position in her community, with privileges like a pastor. She played a large part in shaping cultural perceptions of motherhood as well as functioning as officiate in the rite of passage of becoming a mother. She carried valuable information, passed on by predecessors across generations, that positively impacted the social health of the family structure and overall health of the community. With her eradication, so was her guidance.

The African American midwife is a cultural and social resource whose destruction has impoverished us all.

(Fraser, G.K.1989; p.8.)

This webinar is a comprehensive lecture on the history of the African American midwife, her present status and the future existence of the African American midwife, and the need to increase their number of African American midwives, to diversify the midwifery profession and improve maternal and child health.

Learning objectives:

  • Conceptualize the significance of the African American midwife’s contributions to public health systems
  • Traditions and behaviors that will help reduce common discomforts during the postpartum period and decrease maternal morbidity rates.
  • Correlation between the eradication of the African American midwife and health disparities in maternal and infant mortality.
  • Best practices when providing postpartum care extending beyond 40 days
  • Identify strategies to increase the number of African American midwives

“The midwife’s work was more than catching babies, they were psychologists, dietitians, loan officers, sex therapist, prayer partners, marriage counselors and friends and sometimes relatives to the women that they served”(Brown & Toussaint, 1997).






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