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UTHSC starts new Midwifery Program to tackle maternal morbidity and mortality

“We look at life events as normal. Having a period is normal. Having a baby is normal. Going through menopause, it’s normal,” said Kate Fouquier, UTHSC Professor.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This week is National Nurse Midwifery Week, to raise awareness to the work and importance of midwives.

University of Tennessee Health Science Center has become the second school in the state to offer a midwifery program.

The moment a woman becomes a mother is the moment a bond is born.

“Birth is just the most special magical thing,” said Lacey Ballard, a UTHSC student.

The journey before and after can be startling.

“We look at life events as normal. Having a period is normal. Having a baby is normal. Going through menopause, it’s normal,” said Kate Fouquier, UTHSC College of Nursing Professor.

A group of women at the university are ready and willing to help what is normal become comfortable. They are UTHSC’s first students of their new Midwifery Program.

“We have a rich history here in the United States, especially in the south with our granny midwives, our slave midwives. That’s a whole culture that has been lost,” said Fouquier.

They are bringing the culture back as Tennessee ranks among states with high maternal morbidity and mortality rates.

“It’s because like most southern states, we’re a rural state,” said Fouquier. “I always say we’re not the answer to the problem, but we are certainly team members in solving this problem… We are trying to educate students to encourage them to work in rural communities and to work at the legislative level to get full practice authority to nurse midwives.”

It is a care that has its misconceptions.

“Most people think that midwives or nurse midwives only deliver babies in the home and you can’t have any pain medicine,” said Fouquier. “Majority of nurse midwives, as do the ones here in the Memphis area, deliver our babies at the hospital.”

“We don’t just do birth. We also start at menarche, a woman’s first period. We’re sort of a primary care provider until menopause,” said Ballard.

Midwives are building personal relationships to provide well-rounded care.

“Being pregnant is not a medical condition. It’s a part of life for women if they choose to get pregnant, if they choose to have children,” said Bonnie Miller, another student.

“I think a lot of people forget that even though we’re walking into a hospital having a baby, this is still our body. This is still the most invasive and intimate part of our body,” said Jasmine Walker, a student.

It is all about womanhood, a sacred journey needing a village to share life to the world.

Although this is National Nurse Midwifery Week, the university will be raising awareness all month long. 

They even have two separate drives; one collecting feminine products for high school students and the other collecting baby supplies for mothers.