Amelia Gibson, Director of the Community Equity, Data & Information Lab (CEDI) at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), Kristin Tully and Erin McClain of the UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health (CMIH), and Kate Menard from the UNC Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology are leading an interdisciplinary research study to collect and share personal stories about maternal health care experiences in North Carolina.
The Pregnancy and Birth Journeys project’s goal is to hear about personal experiences, disseminate accounts of what’s working well, and reexamine priorities for improving health care for pregnant and birthing parents across the state.
“The U.S. has been in a maternal health crisis for a few years now,” Dr. Gibson said. “Pregnant people of color – particularly Black and Native women – are at especially high risk. About half of rural counties in the United States have no obstetric care.”
COVID-19 has made access to care even more complicated. Telehealth is a popular option for providing safer care, but not everyone has internet access, and little is known about how these changes are working from the patient perspective, Gibson said.
The Pregnancy and Birth Journeys project opened in August to collect stories from adults who have been pregnant or who given birth in the last 12 months, and who live in the state of North Carolina.
“I’m excited to work with this team to collect these stories and share this feedback so we can continue to improve maternal health care in North Carolina,” Gibson said.
Childbirth is the most common indication for hospitalization in America, with over 3.8 million people discharged from postnatal care every year. The United States is ranked #56 in the World Bank’s maternal mortality ratio.
In the state of North Carolina, the maternal mortality rate of non-Hispanic Black women is more than double the rate of white women, according to the United Health Foundation and CDC data. In 2018, the rate of infant death in North Carolina of non-Hispanic African-American infants was more than double that of non-Hispanic white infants, according to the NC DHHS. According to the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics, 17.7% of maternal deaths in NC each year are pregnancy-related.
“There are interpersonal and systemic clinical factors preventing birthing parents from achieving their health goals – we are seeking firsthand accounts of pregnancy and birth journeys in order to improve care for future families,” offered Dr. Tully.
The CEDI Lab has an ongoing partnership with the 4th Trimester Project, which aims to improve postpartum wellness and care, and this new initiative builds on that collaboration. UNC CMIH received funding for the project as a subaward of the Health Services and Resources Administration-funded Maternal Health Innovation Award to the NC Department of Public Health.
This initiative is supported by the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $10,216,885 with 0% percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.