Black Moms Rising: $10M UIC study seeks to drive down US maternal mortality rate

Jasmine Minor Image
Friday, June 14, 2024
UIC study seeks to drive down US maternal mortality rate
A University of Illinois Chicago study with Melanated Group Midwifery Care seeks to drive down the US maternal death rate, especially for Black moms.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A first-of-its-kind research study involves hundreds of Black moms getting support from the prenatal stage up to a year after giving birth. ABC7 Chicago's Black Moms Rising series is taking a look.

The University of Illinois Chicago health study said it's already seeing results in bringing more moms safely back home.

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"A lot of Black moms who come to me and say, 'I just don't want to die,'" said Karie Stewart, with Melanated Group Midwifery Care.

It's a dark reality Black moms giving birth across the city are facing.

"Even had a conversation with my partner, if we have to choose between me or baby, like conversations like that," MGMC mom Akira Cavin said.

But, in one quiet room at UIC hospital, they can take a breath and bridge trust with the medical system.

Hundreds of Black moms are coming home healthy.

That's thanks in part to the $10 million Melanated Group Midwifery Care research study that's making their voice the centerpiece.

SEE ALSO: Black Moms Rising: Women becoming single mothers by choice with assisted reproductive technology

Cavin is expecting her first baby girl in July. The five-year MGMC study picks moms like her at random, creates weekly group sessions and gives them a team of midwives, a social worker and even the often necessary doulas up to a year after giving birth.

"About 50% of those deaths occurred in the first six months," Stewart said. "Every individual piece is important to them being successful in transitioning into parenthood, but also staying alive."

Stewart is the lead midwife of the study. She said they're currently in their third year and the idea is to provide a model for others.

"We can scale this up and do this at every hospital in Chicago or in the nation," Stewart said.

This level of care is rare to see, let alone have access to.

There are maternal care provider deserts in the Chicago area. The heart of downtown, near major hospitals, has more providers than that of the entire South and Southwest sides, full of predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods.

MGMC doesn't stop at just medical care, but comes well-equipped with baby clothes, toys, diapers and affirmations.

"We were affirmed in what we were experiencing; we were affirmed in what our bodies could do," MGMC mom Moniqueca Long said. "I feel like I can trust my mind."

It's all an effort so more moms like Long can know what the miracle of birth, with a pink bow and all, feels like.

"I did feel like a warrior, and I did feel empowered," Long said.

Stewart said there are about 400 midwives in Illinois. Only 7% identify as a person of color. It's why, she said, when she created the team of providers, she made sure all of them were of color.