The role of a midwife can be key to the health of a pregnant woman.
“The most important thing is coming to prenatal care early in her pregnancy and not waiting until late in her pregnancy,” said Rhonda Dixon, an advanced practice registered nurse and certified midwife with Christus Southeast Texas Maternity and Women’s Health Center. “She needs to come to us early so we can get her started so we can identify any risks she may have. Our main job is to decrease any problems she may have.”
National Midwifery Week (Oct. 4-10) is observed across America to celebrate midwives and the health care they provide.
Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie acknowledged it by proclaiming “Port Arthur Midwifery Week” in the city.
Along with the week, Dixon is raising awareness of a startling statistic concerning Black women in childbirth. She said Black women die at a rate four times higher than White women due to complications, and their babies are two to three times at greater risk of dying within the first year of life due to socioeconomic factors.
“The care for pregnancy starts before the woman gets pregnant,” Dixon said. “She needs to be on a good diet, not all the sugars and fats. Those are the main things. And that she’s exercising regularly. It’s important she takes a vitamin that has folic acid. DHA is a nutrient that helps with the growth of the baby, especially the baby’s brain.”
Genetics can also factor in childbirth problems, said Sheila Jordan, a nurse-midwife and family nurse practitioner with Gulf Coast Health Center. Symptoms after birth can range from high blood pressure to hypertension and can affect women of any race.
“I’ve seen that happen to a lot of Black women after their childbirth when they’re not even getting care anymore or they drop off from the postpartum care,” Jordan said. “She had heart failure and cardiomyopathy. She started having those problems after her birth. Her baby was three months old when she came to us. … She swears she had no problem during the pregnancy, and she didn’t realize that was happening to her.”
One way to ask for prenatal care help is by calling 211, Jordan said. Both Gulf Coast and Christus have community health workers who can assist as well, the midwives say.
The American College of Nurse-Midwives, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, sponsors National Midwifery Week. Dixon said the organization is focusing on health care equity for women.
Some women experience inequities in how quickly they can attain care, said Sheila Jordan, a nurse-midwife and family nurse practitioner with Gulf Coast Health Center.
“Sometimes they have no medical insurance or they are underinsured,” Jordan said. “It’s knowing where to go and where to apply.”
Beginning Monday, Christus Southeast Texas Maternity and Women’s Health Center will temporarily relocate from its 3535 Gates Blvd. location to its Mid-County Outpatient Center at 8801 Ninth Avenue.