Giving Birth in America: California by Every Mother Counts Premieres on CNN

This week, Every Mother Counts launched the fifth installment of our Giving Birth in America series on CNN. The documentary series examines the maternal health crisis in the United States, a country where women are more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth related causes than in any other developed country.

California is the only state in the country that has dramatically reduced maternal deaths – cutting their maternal mortality ratio in half by developing clear, step-by-step approaches to preventing, identifying, and treating complications. While the state is considered to be at the forefront of improving the quality of maternity care, access to quality care varies in different communities, with immigrant women facing substantial barriers.

Photo credit: Adam Guy/Every Mothers Counts

California has more undocumented immigrants than any other state, many of whom are unable to get basic primary care, preventive care, and reproductive health services that they need to stay healthy. While Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) covers care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the following two months regardless of immigration status, at other times, undocumented immigrant adults are not eligible for public insurance. The lack of access to care outside of pregnancy means that many undocumented women enter pregnancy with untreated chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which put women and their babies at increased risk of pregnancy complications.

Immigrant communities also experience language barriers, food and job insecurity, fragmented social networks, environmental and occupational health hazards, and stress related to discrimination and fear of deportation. Particularly in the aftermath of the recent increase in immigration enforcement actions, many undocumented women avoid seeking health care out of fear of deportation.

Giving Birth in America: California shines a spotlight on one woman’s experience at a community health center in Watsonville, CA, the “Strawberry Capital” of the US. The clinic, Salud Para La Gente, integrates services that support the social needs of their patients and provides high quality medical care tailored to the community’s unique needs. The majority of the clinic’s patients are immigrants, many of whom work in the fields at local farms.

OBGYN Director of Women’s Health Dept, photographed at the Salud Para La Gente clinic in Watsonville, CA. Photo credit: Monique Jaques/Every Mother Counts

The film follows an immigrant farmworker from Mexico, pregnant with her third child, as she progresses through pregnancy and childbirth, and explores the high-quality care she receives from the team of obstetricians, midwives, and others at the clinic. Her care team is led by Dr. Cristina Gamboa, an obstetrician whose parents and grandparents were farmworkers in central California, and who studied medicine with the goal of returning to serve a community similar to the one where she was raised.

Extended access to care and a culturally appropriate, team-based approach can change the course of a pregnancy as is evident in Giving Birth in America: California. Every Mother Counts is supporting efforts to make comprehensive, culturally appropriate care available to every woman across the country, and globally. Two pieces of federal legislation – the “MOMMIES Act” and the “Maternal CARE Act,” – would support reducing the gaps in the fragmented and inadequate care that often lead to poor maternal health outcomes. You can learn more and take action to support these bills at www.everymothercounts.org.

Every Mother Counts created the Giving Birth in America documentary series to educate the public and raise awareness about the need to improve maternal health care. The first three films in the series Montana, New York, Florida debuted on CNN in late 2015, Louisiana followed in 2017.  Each film focuses on women and their health care providers in the days leading up to and following childbirth. Together, they navigate challenges that women face as a result of discrimination, poverty, chronic illness, overuse of medical interventions and other issues that affect maternal health outcomes in the US.

Photo credit: Adam Guy/Every Mothers Counts

Giving Birth in America: California was directed and produced by Clancy McCarty, with cinematography by Nicole Mackinlay Hahn, sound and field producer Lindsey Cordero, edited by Josh Banville, and featuring original music by Latin Grammy winners Flor de Toloache, and Evan Weiss. Click here to access the film.

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