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Midwife and Doula Cynthia Jackson Says Birthing at Home is the Better Option

Jackson tells us how she got into midwifery and why she says giving birth at home is a safe, viable option for all healthy women.

Midwife Cynthia Jackson with new mom Rachel Turner (in pink) and mom-to-be Jayne Jackson (in green), both of Detroit.

Lauren Jeziorski

There's something to be said for tradition – for doing it the way your mother did. But also valuable is pausing to ask, "Is there a better way?" If we're talking birthing babies, Cynthia Jackson, a practicing midwife and doula in metro Detroit, says yes, and it doesn't involve a hospital.

Jackson has led or assisted in 223 home births. Like an obstetrician, she specializes in prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum and newborn care, but with a more personalized touch and a promotion of natural labor and delivery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2015, 32 percent of babies born in the U.S. were delivered by cesarean section – twice the number the World Health Organization recommends. "If you're in labor for 12 to 14 hours, after a certain time, they're not going to give you another 12 hours," Jackson says.

Hospital staff may intervene with drugs like Pitocin, which induces labor and, Jackson says, can cause the baby to become stressed and its heart rate to drop, making a C-section necessary. "In the home setting, we don't mess with it at all," she says. "We trust women's bodies to be able to do what it needs to do."

Jackson's been fascinated with this process since she was a little girl. She says, "We had a family tradition where we'd record the births, and that's how you'd watch the baby being born. I just literally thought that was the best thing ever. It wasn't until I had graduated from college (Tennessee State University) and was applying to medical school that I realized that doula work and midwifery was what I really wanted to do."

In 2005, she started doula training. Doulas differ from midwives in that they are there to provide physical and emotional support but not to administer clinical care. Jackson started her midwifery apprenticeship in April 2011, which she completed last spring. Now she can apply to become a certified professional midwife, a process she's already started. In Michigan, you don't need an official certification to practice – but that's likely to change soon, she notes.

When Rachel Turner of Detroit was pregnant, she didn't have health insurance. She says had she delivered in the hospital, she would've been forced to file for bankruptcy. Jackson charges about $3,500 for her midwife services – prenatal care, delivery and postpartum visits – compared to upwards of $16,000 in a hospital setting without insurance. Turner delivered little Raphael Jr. at home in a birthing pool, surrounded by her family. "His dad was the first person to touch him," she says. The pool has become a trend with home birthers. Jackson's pools hold 175 gallons of water and allow for easier mobility, more birthing position options and help with pain.

Jackson runs Sacred Rose Birthing Services and is one-third of the Mosaic Midwifery Collective, a group of midwives – of color – who service Detroit moms and back each other up. This year, they'll start monthly classes to educate the community around home births and midwifery.

"Right now, there is a perception that home birth is only for middle-class white women," Jackson says, "and we want to let people know that home birth is a viable option for all healthy women."

 

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