The story of motherhood in Washington D.C. is more than a tale of two cities -- it's a patchwork of fragments and experiences influenced by explosive growth, gentrification and seismic shifts in socioeconomic development. In our nation's capital, prenatal and maternal health care has become a widening divide between the more affluent mothers and our most economically vulnerable mothers.
According to Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers 2015 Report, among 25 of the wealthiest capital cities surveyed around the world, Washington, D.C. has the highest infant mortality rate. Their study also found that babies from Ward 8, the District's poorest ward, are dying at much higher rates than the city's high average.
As a midwife caring for mothers in Washington D.C.'s Ward 8, home to our city's most under-resourced expectant mothers with the lowest income, these figures sadly are not surprising.
When talking about how to care for expectant mothers in the Ward 8 community, limiting our focus to just medical interventions is like trying to put a Band-Aid on a very deep wound. There are so many layers related to the circumstances for many of these mothers that need to be addressed, whether it's chronic stress, histories of abuse or other acute vulnerabilities.
So as we work to positively affect the lives of moms and the children they are bringing into this world, we must take a broader approach that addresses holistic solutions to the problems these moms face. We should look to the midwife philosophy, which focuses on the concept of Centering®. It's an innovative prenatal care program that emphasizes self-awareness, education and support within a group setting.
Centering is a model of empowerment that encourages women to take control of their pregnancies, their bodies, their families and their situations ensuring they are partners in their care program. Saving lives is just one of many hurdles we face. It's all about the group effort.
Forging bonds between mothers is a big part of Centering. We group expectant mothers who are due to deliver around a similar date to gather for ten two-hour sessions. Mothers come to each session prepared with results from self-care activities, like weight and blood pressure checks, recorded on their charts. Following the medical check-in, the direction of the meeting can go wherever the group decides and is an opportunity to expose our moms to new things -- modules on nutrition, contraception, breastfeeding, early baby childcare and even daddy boot camps. The experience is completely customizable based on the needs of our mothers.
Successes have included moms that have gone on to breastfeed for a year to moms that have proudly declared that truly learning about their bodies has empowered them to deliver their newborn naturally and drug-free.
Ensuring Ward 8 mothers are equal partners in their care, knowledgeable and informed about their choices, and empowered as mothers is a pivotal step to bridge the infant mortality in this community. While tragic, Save the Children's new figures should set off an alarm to our city -- now is the time to increase our efforts and invest in the future of our mothers.
Save the Children's annual State of the World's Mothers report, which was released this month with support from Johnson & Johnson, has become a reliable international tool to show where mothers and children fare best, and where they face the greatest hardships. It is based on the latest data on health, education, economics and female political participation. The full report is available at: www.savethechildren.org/mothers.
Editor's Note: Johnson & Johnson is a sponsor of The Huffington Post's Global Motherhood section.