Northside birth center offers Black midwifery

First of a two-part story

The Roots (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll recently found that only three in 10 members of the public hold favorable views of the House Republican-passed American Health Care Act, while nearly half still favor the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The poll also shows that 55 percent of the 1,205 adult respondents don’t like the GOP healthcare bill that, if signed into law, will overthrow the ACA. They want the Senate, which has not yet acted on the bill, to make major changes or not pass it all.

In the meantime, many healthcare providers are left wondering what the future holds for them as the legislative process grinds along. Roots Community Birth Center is one such provider.

“The ACA is…how birth centers are funded,” noted Rebecca Polston, a midwife who owns Roots Community Birth Center, the only Black-owned and-operated midwifery practice in Minneapolis. The Center primarily serves North Minneapolis families.

“Pregnancy always was a ‘pre-existing condition’” and therefore covered under the ACA, she pointed out. “If the pre-existing conditions mandate goes away, we will probably go away. I don’t think this is being told enough or it’s not being told in its full context.”

Rebecca Polston (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Speaking inside her center’s second-floor “living room,” Polston told the MSR that a woman’s prior pregnancy is considered a “pre-existing” health condition, and the new House health bill doesn’t have the same provisions that the ACA has, including provisions against denial of health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

She remembered being denied health coverage because she’d had a Cesarean birth delivery. At least 50 percent of births are covered by health plans, noted Polston.

“One of the things that happened with ‘ObamaCare’ is that more people had private insurance. If these plans won’t contract with us, we can’t service people. It is very expensive,” she stated.

Black midwives date back to Africa: “Midwives are the original and most common birth attendees in the world for all women,” says the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC), a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit organization.

Polston is one of seven certified Black midwives in Minnesota.

“I started training for midwife in 2007 after the birth of my second child,” she recalled. “I started practicing in 2012 and had a house-based practice.”

But she wanted to set up practice on the North Side, where hospitals were a Black pregnant woman’s only option. She and another woman “connected at a conference” and shared their vision of a culturally centered birth center. The two later opened Roots in North Minneapolis in September 2015.

“We average 10 [births] a month. Sometimes we’ll have more or a few less,” Polston said of the center located on 44th Avenue North with a staff of five.

“My job is to be a lifeguard” for the expectant mother, said Polston, who calls herself “the steward of the natural process. “It is not my job to have the baby,” but rather to make it as comfortable as possible for the mother to have her baby. “All of our work is about helping them [in the birth] and making space for them to do that, to be as normal as possible.”

“When I learned more of what Rebecca was doing,” explained University of Minnesota Health Professor Rachel Hardeman, “and she was opening up a birth center in the heart of the community, that says something to me. We started talking about ways to work together,” resulting in her collaboration with Polston on a research project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Related story: Midwives of color may improve health outcomes

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to



One Comment on “Northside birth center offers Black midwifery”

  1. The government need to look out into initiatives as such and give it the necessary help it merit.

Comments are closed.