AHS has been providing midwife led services for more than 40 years, but the practice of midwifery is not new and in fact Black midwives have played a leading role in providing care during labor and delivery for thousands of women dating back to the 1600s.

The granny midwives were well respected Black women from the South who provided care to poor and rural women during pregnancy and labor at a time when hospitals were not accessible to them. They were family counselors, breastfeeding consultants, postpartum doulas, nutritionists, and advocates. Their skills and knowledge were invaluable and laid the foundation for modern day midwifery.

Beginning in the early 1800s new legislation regulated the practice of midwifery and required medical training and licensing. The grannies who could not or would not comply with state law, went from being well respect to persecuted and were forced out of practice, resulting in birth injustices.

Despite the medical health care system’s efforts to eliminate Black midwives from the bedside of pregnant women, it did not improve outcomes and in fact had astronomical impacts on Black women.

Today, Black people who give birth are three to four times more likely to die during labor than White people who give birth, and Black babies are dying at twice the rate as White babies.

Research now shows the use of midwives and doulas can close the gap between outcomes for different ethnic groups. Making it evident the granny midwives had it right all along and while many health systems still have a hard time accepting midwives, AHS has embraced it in a way that others have not.

“For more than two decades our midwife-led programs have been at the forefront of transforming care and improving birthing outcomes for women. As much as 70% of our deliveries at Highland are led by midwives. That is 9 times the national average,” said Dr. Kevin Smith, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The grannies taught us trusted people are imperative in creating a support system where women are successfully guided through pregnancy. Research also shows having caregivers of the same race and culture can lead to improved birth outcomes and greater satisfaction in health care services.

Last year, AHS launched the BElovedBIRTH Black Centering program develop by for and with Black people. It was designed to connect Black women with Black midwives to provide evolutionary prenatal and postpartum care in group settings.

Midwifery has played a critical role in improving care and outcomes especially for Black families. Today we recognize and honor the contributions by the granny midwives.

To learn more about the granny midwives watch The Granny Midwives video.

More information about our midwife services and BElovedBIRTH Black Centering is available on our website.