Central Michigan University senior Moriah Cooper wants every woman to know the services of a midwife are among her options for childbirth.
The exercise science: kinesiology major and McNair scholar is researching awareness and advocacy of midwifery services in the Detroit area, along with the barriers to those services in communities with a high minority population.
“Her research will help us understand why people
aren’t using midwifery services.” — René Shingles
A midwife assists with childbirth at home or in a birthing center or hospital but is not a physician. Certified nurse midwives are educated in university programs, while lay midwives train through apprenticeship.
"Midwifery is another option out there that could be healthier and more natural," Cooper said.
Her research in the Detroit area focuses on overcoming barriers to midwife use, primarily through educating the community of their availability, the health considerations for both woman and infant, and long-term cost effectiveness.
She said she is analyzing completed interviews.
The American College of Nurse Midwives says use of a midwife can decrease the chance of a cesarean delivery, reduce rates of labor induction and augmentation, reduce use of regional anesthesia, decrease infant mortality and preterm birth, and lower long-range costs.
The African-American experience
Historically, home births were more common among African-American women, who were less likely to have the means or option to give birth in a hospital. As health insurance became more common, the use of midwives decreased among all women.
Research thus far finds that women, particularly women of color, often aren't made aware of the option of midwifery or how to find practitioners.
"Her research will help us understand why people aren't using midwifery services," said Cooper's faculty mentor, René Shingles, chair of rehabilitation and medical sciences in the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions.
“I want to create an advocacy piece so women of
color can learn about midwifery services and why it’s important.” — Moriah
"Once you have that understanding, then you can help educate people about what the services are, why you might make use of the services, help dispel any myths and help women to know that this might be an option for them, something they might not have been aware of in the first place."
"The other piece is how do we advocate?" Shingles said. "If it is an alternative that is healthy for women, then how do you mobilize people to advocate for insurance companies or Medicare and Medicaid to cover those types of services?"
A desire to help
Cooper hopes her study will help address those questions.
She became interested in midwifery when she worked as a summer intern in the labor and delivery unit at Hutzel Women's Hospital in Detroit as a high school student. She was part of Project Genesis, a summer program for Detroit public high school students interested in health care careers.
"There I was exposed to the full spectrum of births," she said.
Her experience at the hospital — and learning that African-American women in Detroit and their babies have a high rate of birthing problems, including deaths — made her aware "there were other ways, perhaps sometimes healthier ways, to deliver babies," she said.
Cooper's goal is to publish her findings at the end of this school year and reach out to communities in the summer of 2018.
"I want to create an advocacy piece so women of color can learn about midwifery services and why it's important," she said.