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Women's Health Education Program Scholars' Projects

Improving Conversation and Cooperation Within the Maternity Care System in the United States: A Response to the Dichotomy Between Medical and Natural Care Providers

WHEP scholar Kathleen Nelson

WHEP Scholar Kathleen Nelson
Drexel University College of Medicine, Class of 2021

Due to social, political and economic forces, the maternity care system in the United States has become polarized with western medical care and natural childbirth practices on opposite ends of the spectrum. Women who become pregnant and seek prenatal care usually must choose between types of providers such as obstetricians, midwives, doulas, acupuncturists, and so on. In the current moment, there is little to no communication or cooperation between these various types of providers when providing maternity care to patients, forcing women to choose between types of available maternity care instead of working with various types of providers to receive comprehensive and collaborative prenatal, perinatal and postnatal care.

The lack of communication between types of maternity care providers limits women's access to care and threatens their ability to make informed choices during their pregnancy and childbirth. In addition, institutional rules and regulations often hinder patients’ ability to attempt home birth with a safety net in place. This problem can be addressed by moving away from the dichotomy between a “medical birth” and a “natural birth,” and instead striving to provide every woman with “a good birth.”

By placing women’s needs, choices and birth preferences at the center of the conversation, maternity care providers can help women experience a positive birthing experience that exists outside of the medical versus natural birth binary. This can be achieved by increasing collaboration between types of maternity care providers and breaking down barriers that create a piecemeal array of disconnected maternity and birthing services from which women must choose.

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