How culturally relevant care can help you thrive during pregnancy, and beyond

Every pregnancy is different — individuals experience a wide range of symptoms and have unique priorities for their labor, delivery, and prenatal and postpartum care.  That’s why care that centers you and recognizes where you’re coming from is so important, both during pregnancy and even after you little one is born. 

Personalized care centers you

Personalized care is care that centers the patient’s wants and needs, whether you are working with an OB/GYN, midwife, mental health professional, doula, lactation consultant, or peer breastfeeding mentor. Your care provider should view you as a unique individual, listen to your wishes and concerns, ensure that you understand all of your care options, and empower you to feel in control of your body. And while an ideal birth experience isn’t always possible for safety reasons, a good provider will always communicate why things are happening and do their best to meet as many of your wishes as possible while keeping you safe. 

Culturally relevant care recognizes where you’re coming from

It can be incredibly meaningful to seek out care that really recognizes where you’re coming from too. Culturally relevant care can also play a huge role in ensuring that your experience of pregnancy and postpartum is what you want it to be and that you’re given the opportunity to feel recognized and satisfied with your care. The culture that we come from defines so many aspects of our lives, including our understanding and experience of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. So finding support within your own cultural community can be empowering. This might mean working with a care provider who understands your religion, or grew up in your community, or who shares your background. Care based in this sort of shared cultural understanding allows you to thrive, because at its core it means that your care provider truly understands where you’re coming from. 

This can be of particular importance for Black women and birthing folks, as birth inequities in the U.S. mean that Black women and families experience disproportionately worse maternal and infant health outcomes for a number of reasons — including limited access to care, dismissal of pain and other health concerns, and higher rates of underlying health conditions — racism and unconscious bias are huge factors in each of these areas. Working with a care provider who really sees you, understands you, and recognizes these challenges can be invaluable. 

In practice, this could mean that if you’re Black, you choose to work with a Black care team during pregnancy — an OB/GYN or midwife, or a doula. If you plan to breastfeed, it might mean that you seek out breastfeeding support within the Black community, like taking classes with a Black breastfeeding support group in your community before birth, attending breastfeeding support sessions with such a group postpartum, working with a Black lactation consultant, or meeting with a Black peer breastfeeding counselor. Many groups run by Black birth professionals are available to provide just this sort of support — from midwifery groups, to doula groups, to breastfeeding groups. 

You deserve it 

While you deserve to feel comfortable and safe with your provider (and these are non negotiables), you won’t necessarily find that everyone supporting you throughout pregnancy and postpartum must be a perfect fit to have healthy outcomes and good experiences. Certainly, sometimes options are limited in terms of the sort of healthcare providers we can see or the additional support people we have access to. If, for example, you’re not entirely happy with your OB/GYN, but are limited in your provider options, then maybe you seek out a doula who can help support you throughout your pregnancy and postpartum journey and help you advocate for the best care for you. Small choices like this can make a big difference. You deserve to have care that fully supports you throughout birth and beyond. 

Read more
  • Kennedy Austin. “End Racial Disparities in Maternal Health, Call a Midwife.” Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Columbia University, February 2 2020. Retrieved August 31 2020.
  • Kenneth J. Gruber, Susan H. Cupito, Christina F. Dobson. “Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes.” The Journal of Perinatal Education. 22(1): 49-58. Winter 2013. Retrieved August 31 2020.
  • Petraten Hoope-Bender et al. “Improvement of maternal and newborn health through midwifery.” The Lancet. 384(9949): 1226-1235. September 27-October 3 2014. Retrieved August 31 2020.
  • Jill Litman. “Call the Midwives: Addressing America’s Black Maternal and Infant Mortality Crisis.” The Public Health Advocate. Berkeley Public Health, May 8 2019. Retrieved August 31 2020.
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  • Cara Terreri. “Black History Month: The Importance of Black Midwives, Then, Now and Tomorrow.” Lamaze International. Lamaze International, February 22 2019. Retrieved August 31 2020.
  • Koren Thomas. “The Black Midwives Movement.” MedPage Today. MedPage Today, LLC, February 23 2020. Retrieved August 31 2020.
  • Saraswathi Vedam et al. “Mapping integration of midwives across the United States: Impact on access, equity, and outcomes.” PLOS ONE. PLOS, February 21 2018. Retrieved August 31 2020.
  • “Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 4 2020. Retrieved August 31 2020.
  • “Social Justice, Birth Justice, and Midwifery.” The Midwives Alliance of North America. The Midwives Alliance of North America. Retrieved August 31 2020.

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