The culture war between doctors and midwives, explained

  • Loading...
  • Published on:  Tuesday, May 29, 2018
  • A deeper look at history explains why when it comes to midwife use, the US falls behind other affluent countries.

    Read more in ProPublica's story here:

    And catch their latest in maternal mortality reporting here:

    Despite spending more per capita on health care than any other country, the U.S. has the highest rate of deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth in the industrialized world. But what makes maternal healthcare in other affluent countries look so different than the U.S.? Among other things, midwives. Midwives in the U.S. participate in less than 10 percent of births. But in Sweden, Denmark and France, they lead around three quarters of deliveries. In Great Britain, they deliver half of all babies, including all three of Kate Middleton’s. So if the midwifery model works for royal babies, why not our own? Check out the video above to find out how midwives have been at the center of a culture war that’s deeply rooted in race and class in America.

    Subscribe to the ProPublica newsletter:

    Subscribe to our channel!

    In our Vox+ProPublica collaboration, we create deep-dive, investigative video storytelling fueled by ProPublica's reporting. You can read the reporting at, and watch the rest of the series on YouTube at is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

    Check out our full video catalog:
    Follow Vox on Twitter:
    Or on Facebook:
  • Source:


  • Vox

     (May 29, 2018)

    In the UK, midwives deliver half of all babies. Compare that to the US where midwives attend only around 10% of births, and maternal and infant mortality rates are much higher. Could a larger role for midwives improve health outcomes? Read more:

  • Dante Munoz-Castaneda

     (4 days ago)

    This data was SOOOO poorly presented. As many have already said. Correlation does not always lead to causation. Be more thorough next time or risk losing viewers... Or maybe you're ok with that???

  • Science with Katie

     (May 29, 2018)

    This was really interesting to watch - I didn’t even know this was an issue, it’s just so common to have a midwife when having a baby in the UK.

  • Dalai Mami

     (Jul 11, 2018)

    Ms Articulate we do have midwives in the states.

  • Jacob Springall

     (Jul 3, 2018)

    Science with Katie I was surprised that the rate was as low as 50%. I just assumed all births were done with a midwife unless there were complications or a C-section was done.

  • Curiosity Culture

     (May 29, 2018)

    When I first heard about midwives, I had to google it. Living in America, I rarely hear or talk to people with that occupation.

  • NutLover360

     (Oct 10, 2018)

    Poo in the loo

  • Al Barleta

     (May 29, 2018)

    What happens when a hospital runs out of labor and delivery nurses?They have a mid-wife crisis

  • The Ultimate Reductionist

     (Dec 25, 2018)

    +Al Barleta Ok. BACK in the WOMB for you.

  • meme_lol

     (Jul 6, 2018)


  • Grimm

     (May 29, 2018)

    Attributing the US's higher maternal mortality rate to the use of doctors instead of midwives is very misleading. It ignores the vastly different healthcare systems, overall, between the US, UK, France, Sweden, and Denmark. There is no information in this video that supports or refutes the argument that either doctors or midwives improve infant or maternal health.Talking about the history of midwives in the US and its intersection of race and gender is interesting from a historical perspective but do...

  • Glenn Stewart

     (Jan 9, 2019)

    Taking a look at OECD data and rates of midwifes vs obstetricians there is a correlation which extends well beyond the small number of countries listed in your reply.Unfortunately in the OECD, the US has the highest infant mortality rate in the first world nations. It is also the country with the lowest participation of widwives and among the highest rate of intervention in birth. To make matters worse, it is among the most expensive out of pocket and for the insurer.But at the end of the day, I can'...

  • Gabby Morin

     (Jan 3, 2019)

    I went looking for someone to have already made this comment - it was my first thought as soon as Vox made the point in the video and it nearly kept me from watching the rest. I only kept watching hoping they would point it out themselves. Now while Vox may not have explicitly stated the correlation, they certainly implied as much and then made no attempt to qualify what is essentially "just look at the graph" - then immediately pivoting to the statement "...if midwives are popular and e...

  • Rachel Campbell

     (May 29, 2018)

    While I enjoyed this video, I feel that the comparison between maternal mortality rates in America, and countries like Sweden and Denmark was misleading. This video seemed to insinuate that the reason America has a higher maternal mortality rate is because of their lack of midwives. Correlation does not equal causation. There are a lot of other factors, and reasons why countries like Sweden and Denmark may have lower maternal mortality rates, the most obvious being their free and widely accessible heal...

  • Suzanne Z

     (Feb 5, 2019)

    Agree & am also super confused. A "midwife" (barnmorska) in Sweden is a nurse w/ specialization, their education credentials are straightforward. They work at hospitals, at least when they're delivering babies. There are doctors around. And other professions obvs, they work in integrated teams like in any part of the hospital. In the US there are nurse-midwives, but there is also apparently a pretty large group of people calling themselves midwives and practicing w/out a nursing degree...

  • Miyuru Weerarathna

     (May 29, 2018)

    In Sri Lanka where we have maternal mortality rates comparable to the west midwives play a major role. I’m happy to say that there’s a nice rapport between doctors and midwives here. It’s the nurses and midwives that. Have a small rift developing. This is what I’ve seen in my 4 years as a med student. No sexism, no class issues. It’s team work here.

  • MrHyperdant

     (Jan 7, 2019)

    Maternal Mortality rates in Sri lanka are at best mid-ranking (30/100 000 lives birth, which is quite good), to put this in perspective the USA rate is still far better with 14/100 000.There is a correlation between good maternal mortality and good implementation of midwives in healthcare system, but i don't think there is a direct causality.

  • Warrior Waitress

     (Jul 11, 2018)

    Miyuru Weerarathna Cheers from an American mother!:)I gave birth to my first child in a hospital with an obstetrician, and to my second child in a birthing center with a midwife. For both children I took childbirth classes for The Bradley Method (which uses relaxation as a means of pain relief). I must say, I had a much better experience with my midwife than with my obstetrician, who tried to pressure me into unnecessary interventions "to speed things along", but luckily I was educated...

  • Wrath Is Me

     (May 29, 2018)

    *I think you need to look at our terrible healthcare system for the maternal mortality rate, not the rate of midwifes.*

  • Kaila Maurice

     (Sep 16, 2018)

    god thank you for saying that

  • Bok

     (May 31, 2018)

    'well I'm pregnant and don't even have enough money to get this parasite safety removed!'

  • Jack Simpson

     (May 29, 2018)

    Your maternal mortality statistics are a textbook example of confusing correlation with causation.

  • Suzanne Z

     (Feb 5, 2019)

    It's ok to point out apparent correlations and hypothesize (even badly) about them, as long as it's clear that's what you're doing. I thought that was really clear here, even if it was a pretty poorly thought out & sloppy video.

  • Jack Simpson

     (May 30, 2018)

    Sarah Pajek - "it is a statistic that ought to concern us all" - I agree, it does show a problem with healthcare in the US. However, they were arguing that there was a relationship between the number of midwives in a country, and the birth mortality rate, yet presented no evidence other than correlation to substantiate that position.

  • kakashihatake454

     (May 29, 2018)

    Isn’t it a bit inappropriate to correlate a lack of midwifery to premature births, neonatal mortality and c sections? Whilst there is probably a benefit to having midwifes involved in pregnancy, there’s a multitude of other lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors that contribute more to those three medical occurrences. Vox should have mention the other factors because otherwise you could just assume from that info that midwifery reduces those things, a statement that may be well correlated but wit...

  • André Pettersson

     (Jun 1, 2018)

    It also completely ignores the amount of c-sections performed in the us compared to europe.A procedure that could well influence mortality rates.

  • Nelson Thangjam

     (Jun 1, 2018)

    Read the article linked in the video description, please.