Are You Listening?

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The Giving Voice to Mothers Study

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Listen to what people from communities of color and people who planned community births say about their experiences.

Narrator Tatyana Ali, actor and mother of two, says, "These findings could transform how care is delivered, and who delivers care, to those of us most in need."

Video Credits

Narration: Tatyana Ali
Illustrations: Cheyenne Varner
The voices of birthing people in the video and throughout this website are in the words shared by the study participants. To protect the anonymity of the study participants, actors were used.

Listen to what people from communities of color and people who planned community births say about their experiences.

Narrator Tatyana Ali, actor and mother of two, says, "These findings could transform how care is delivered, and who delivers care, to those of us most in need."

Video Credits

Narration: Tatyana Ali
Illustrations: Cheyenne Varner
The voices of birthing people in the video and throughout this website are in the words shared by the study participants. To protect the anonymity of the study participants, actors were used.

Listen to what people from communities of color and people who planned community births say about their experiences.

Narrator Tatyana Ali, actor and mother of two, says, "These findings could transform how care is delivered, and who delivers care, to those of us most in need."

Video Credits

Narration: Tatyana Ali
Illustrations: Cheyenne Varner
The voices of birthing people in the video and throughout this website are in the words shared by the study participants. To protect the anonymity of the study participants, actors were used.

Key Findings

Who Leads Decisions

People want to lead decisions about their bodies, their babies, and where and how to give birth, including options for care. They report lack of autonomy, pressure to accept unwanted interventions and procedures, and a lack of complete and truthful information about their options for care.

Freedom From Mistreatment

Freedom from mistreatment is a human right. Participants in this study reported mistreatment by providers and health systems. They expressed a desire for freedom from mistreatment, freedom from criticism and judgment for their choices, and freedom from non-consented procedures.

Equity in Perinatal Services

Participants in this study were clear about their preferences for care during pregnancy and childbirth, but there were marked differences in their ability to access their preferred care depending on where they lived or who they were.

Being Respected

Overall, the study showed that, for the person receiving care, quality and safety in perinatal care is linked to being respected by and having trusting relationships with their care providers.

Access to Community-Based Care

Many groups expressed the importance of having a care provider from within one’s own culture and community. It was important that their care provider understood their lived experience and concerns and was able to provide care that was realistic and relevant to their culture and values. They described searching for this type of care and finding it under the care of midwives or at a community birth. They appreciated access to prenatal, birth and postpartum care within their community. Some described finding a provider who shared their identity, culture, race, or heritage, and feeling respected and heard.

Are You Listening?

Real Talk About Safe Care In Pregnancy and Childbirth

Learn more about what is most important to change:

In this webinar, leaders who are transforming health care discuss concrete actions that we can all take to respond to the study findings.

Learn about human rights in pregnancy and childbirth

Hear from experts on how we can transform the lived experience of perinatal services

Tell others why equity matters in pregnancy and childbirth care

Moderator:

Nzinga Blake
Executive Producer, Race and Culture / ABC Owned Television Stations

Nzinga Blake
Executive Producer, Race and Culture / ABC Owned Television Stations

Presenter:

Saraswathi Vedam, PhD, RM, FACNM, Sci D(hc)
Principal, Birth Place Lab

Saraswathi Vedam, PhD, RM, FACNM, Sci D(hc)
Principal, Birth Place Lab

Panelists:

Tatyana Ali
Mother, Actress & Advocate

Jennie Joseph, LM, CPM
Founder and President of Commonsense Childbirth, Inc.

Nicholas Rubashkin, MD, PhD
UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, Division of Hospitalist Medicine | Human Rights in Childbirth

Chandra A. Adams, MD, MBA
Board-Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Women's Health Economist | Physician Owner, Full Circle Women's Care of Jacksonville, FL | Medical Director, Transitions Birth Center of Jacksonville, FL

P. Mimi Niles, Ph.D, MPH, CNM/LM
Assistant Professor, New York University

What Can You Do?

Taking Action for Equity and Safety in Perinatal Care

We want more respect, kindness, belief, trust, and truth from providers and people in the health system. We need anti-racism and anti-oppression training across the health system. We need to know how to say no without risk, how to report mistreatment and unconsented care. We need accountability for violations of our human rights. Some of this work is already being done. Take a look at the ideas, examples, resources and services.

We want more respect, kindness, belief, trust, and truth from providers and people in the health system. We need anti-racism and anti-oppression training across the health system. We need to know how to say no without risk, how to report mistreatment and unconsented care. We need accountability for violations of our human rights. Some of this work is already being done. Take a look at the ideas, examples, resources and services.

key findings (7)

Who Else Needs to Listen?

Share the Findings

Who Designed the Study?

People with experiences of giving birth in the US worked together with midwives, doctors, researchers, and community health workers to design and conduct the Giving Voice to Mothers study. Now they are ready to tell their stories.

People with experiences of giving birth in the US worked together with midwives, doctors, researchers, and community health workers to design and conduct the Giving Voice to Mothers study. Now they are ready to tell their stories.

Untitled-design-2
2700 people from all 50 United States completed this survey.
2700 people from all 50 United States completed this survey.
2700 people from all 50 United States completed this survey.
2700 people from all 50 United States completed this survey.

Steering Council

We convened a national Steering Council of people with experiences of being pregnant in the United States, midwives, doctors, patient advocates, community health organizations, and community-specific health workers. The Council worked together with researchers to build an inclusive and respectful survey that measures a wide range of experiences of care from pre-conception through early parenting. Throughout the study we have prioritized the voices and expertise of perinatal service users from communities of color and people who planned a community birth.

We convened a national Steering Council of people with experiences of being pregnant in the United States, midwives, doctors, patient advocates, community health organizations, and community-specific health workers. The Council worked together with researchers to build an inclusive and respectful survey that measures a wide range of experiences of care from pre-conception through early parenting. Throughout the study we have prioritized the voices and expertise of perinatal service users from communities of color and people who planned a community birth.

Learn more:

Researchers respond to the findings

Culture-centered care

Almanza JI, Tessier KM, Karbeah J, Neerland C, Stoll K, Hardeman R, Vedam S. The impact of culturally-centered care on peripartum experiences of autonomy and respect in community birth centers. Maternal and Child Health Journal, November 2021.

Why Midwifery

Niles P, Vedam S, Lyndon A, Squires A. Kairos care in a Chronos world:  Midwifery care as model of resistance and accountability in public health settings. Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, Special Issue on Midwifery, June 2021.

Pressure and non-consent

Logan R, McLemore M, Julian Z, Stoll K, Vedam S & GVtM Steering Council. Coercion and non-consent during birth and newborn care in the United States. Birth:Issues in Perinatal Care, April 2022.

Saying No Thanks

Niles P, Stoll K, Wang J, Black S, Vedam S.  I fought my entire way: Experiences of declining maternity care services in British Columbia, PLOS One, June 4, 2021.

Mistreatment

Vedam, S., Stoll, K., Taiwo, T.K. et al. The Giving Voice to Mothers study: inequity and mistreatment during pregnancy and childbirth in the United States. Reprod Health 16, 77 (2019).

Ending Medical Racism

Collaboration for Equity

Vedam S, Zephryin L, Hardtman P, Lusero I, Olson R, Hassan SS, van den Broek N, Stoll K, Niles P, Goode K, Nunally L, Bair JW. Transdisciplinary imagination:  addressing equity and mistreatment in perinatal care. Maternal and Child Health Journal, March 2022.

Perinatal Safe Spots

Provider/Birth Place

Perinatal mood disorders

Tanya Khemet Taiwo, PhD, MPH, CPM, Keisha Goode, PhD, P. Mimi Niles, PhD, MPH, CNM, Kathrin Stoll, PhD, Nisha Malhotra, PhD, and Saraswathi Vedam, PhD, FACNM: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and Reproductive Justice: Examining unmet needs for mental health and social services in a national cohort. Health equity vol. 8,1 3-13. 4 Jan. 2024, doi:10.1089/heq.2022.0207

Acknowledgements

We are extremely grateful to all the study participants who took the time to tell their stories, and the community members who helped to develop the survey.

We are indebted to the Transforming Birth Fund through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for generous support that allowed the development, conduct, and analysis of this study, and the Groundswell Fund for supporting community-based interpretation of findings and development of this report. Finally we are grateful to The WK Kellogg Foundation for a grant that supported our multimedia presentation and dissemination of the results.

We are extremely grateful to all the study participants who took the time to tell their stories, and the community members who helped to develop the survey.

We are indebted to the Transforming Birth Fund through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for generous support that allowed the development, conduct, and analysis of this study, and the Groundswell Fund for supporting community-based interpretation of findings and development of this report. Finally we are grateful to The WK Kellogg Foundation for a grant that supported our multimedia presentation and dissemination of the results.