Midwife pushes for better access to care for expectant mothers

Women of color face barriers that could lead to death, midwife says

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ORLANDO, Fla. – A women's health clinic is raising awareness about access to maternal healthcare.

Jennie Joseph is a licensed midwife and the founder of Commonsense Childbirth Inc. Her clinic and natural birth center in Pine Hills and Winter Garden treat nearly 900 women per year, but she says people end up there for different reasons.

The majority of the people that are coming in through my clinics, aren't coming necessarily because they want a midwife, they're coming because we're the only safety net, we're it," Joseph said.

One of her patients, 35-year-old Tamera Drummond, said she was turned away from other offices in Orlando.

"I tried a few other places however, you know, because I was so far along they said that I'm a liability," Tamera Drummond, a patient at Easy Access Women's Health Clinic, said.

Drummond moved to Florida from Jamaica and her pregnancy had passed the first trimester when she sought care in Central Florida. Joseph said Drummond's story is not uncommon, and expectant mothers in her situation are often classified as "high risk" because they've missed labs and screenings.

But she believes that isn't how it should be. 

"Judgment and blaming is killing our women. It's killing our babies," Joseph said.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is three to four times higher than the risk for white women.

Joseph said the problem was brought into the public eye last year when tennis legend Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia and shared a near-death postpartum experience.

"Recently Serena Williams told her story. She had her baby, she almost died, she wasn't listened to. That is one of the biggest problems of all. Black women aren't listened to," Joseph said. 

The goal of Joseph's clinics is to allow all women access to quality healthcare. 

"There isn't any reason that you can come up with that will have us say, 'No, go away,'" Joseph said.

That policy is what attracted Joseph's patient Akila Collier, who was waiting for her insurance to cover medical costs when she learned she was pregnant.

"Do your research," Collier said.

She knew Joseph had more than 30 years of experience as a midwife and was confident in her team at the health clinic.

"Sometimes women just don't know, maybe they need help filling out applications, maybe they are ... have a language barrier," Collier said.

Joseph said her team helps hundreds of women in in the Orlando area connect with providers and perinatologist high-risk clinics if they are not planning for a natural birth.

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