Improving birthing outcomes with Washington midwife program

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Washington is committed to supporting people throughout their maternal health journey, from before pregnancy to after childbirth. Addressing factors like access to care, social drivers of health and structural inequities is crucial to improving maternal health outcomes and reducing disparities.

Washington State’s Maternal Mortality Review Panel found that 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the state were preventable.1 The panel identified factors that contributed to pregnancy-related deaths including access to health care, gaps in clinical skills, and a lack of screening and follow-up for risk factors. These factors are exacerbated by social drivers of health and structural inequities, perpetuating disparities in access to care and health outcomes for people of color.

To create more equitable access to perinatal health care, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Washington invested $50,000 in Neighborcare Health’s midwifery program. The goal of the program is to close gaps in access to care for people from underserved communities. Neighborcare is a federally qualified health center (FQHC) that serves over 60,000 people in the greater Seattle area. The midwifery program utilizes teams consisting of perinatal care coordinators, certified nurse midwives and perinatal nurses.

The perinatal coordinators serve as the backbone of the midwifery teams, managing care coordination and connecting patients with care, services and resources to support their whole-person health. The teams deliver services ranging from pre-conception, family planning and prenatal care through delivery and post-partum.


Program Outcomes


 Patients served, doubling the program's initial goal.


Births facilitated.


Patients identify as African American or Hispanic.

According to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, midwife services can lower mortality rates for mothers and newborns, reduce preterm births and low birthweight infants and minimize interventions needed during labor.2 The paper found that first-time mothers in the U.S. who had midwives on their care team were 74% less likely to have their labor induced, 75% less likely to receive oxytocin augmentation and 12% less likely to deliver by cesarean than first-time mothers who did not use midwife services.

The midwifery program has surpassed its goals to reach patients and improve health outcomes. In its first year, the program aimed to serve 700 patients and keep the C-section rate below the national target of 23.6%. The program exceeded its goals by serving 1,863 patients (266% of the original goal) through 10,658 patient encounters and reported a C-section rate of  21.4% (a 2.2% improvement from the original goal). The program has additionally made an improvement in midewifery service accessability for underserved communities: 66% of patients served identified as African American or Hispanic.

By supporting increased accessibility of midwife services, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Washington is committed to serving the whole-person health care needs for underserved communities in Seattle. Learn more about how UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Washington cares for our communities across Washington state by visiting our website.


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