A Midwife for All Women: Whitney Pinger

By Wendy |

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Abigail Golden-Vazquez and Heather Wilson

Nominee: Whitney Pinger, Midwife

Whitney Pinger is indisputably a women’s health hero. She is one of the few private-practice midwives in Washington, DC working to provide midwifery care to women desiring hospital birth.  She is a senior Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) in the Washington, DC region, who began her midwifery training 30 years ago in Berkeley, CA.  She was attracted to midwifery as a high school student after reading Our Bodies, Ourselves and began a string of apprenticeships with lay midwives.

Whitney was at the forefront of the home birth movement in the late 1970s and received her training at the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective.  She obtained her midwifery degree at Yale University and has been a staunch advocate for natural birth and the midwifery model of care ever since.

As a CNM, Whitney has run low-income clinics, established multiple private practices, and served as faculty at Yale, Georgetown University, and the Washington Hospital Center.  Several Washington, DC area midwifery practices have closed in recent years.  Whitney filled the void by creating a new private practice dedicated to natural birth in a hospital setting and opened her door to women who were shut out of these closing practices.  She continues to actively promote natural birth, women’s autonomy, and maternity care reform in an environment that can be antagonistic to low-tech, high-touch birth.  Whitney is currently touring regional hospitals with an educational presentation about evidence-based midwifery practice.

As C-section rates soar in the US, without necessarily better outcomes for women and their babies, the service she is providing the community is essential to empowering women to do what they were designed to do and know how to do, birth children, and she is doing it in a way that provides as many options as possible for a safe and healthy outcome to women and babies.

Heather Wilson has apprenticed with Whitney and seen her in action, both as a birth activist and as an incredibly nurturing and intuitive midwife. “I see her time and again, establish trusting, respectful relationships with her patients.  She encourages them to listen to and follow their instincts and empowers them to be active participants in their health care. Whitney creates an environment that enables laboring women to dig deep and do their work without distraction.  She manages birthing women with patience, flexibility, creativity, and compassion and trusts the birthing process.  Whitney is an inspiration to me, her patients, and her colleagues and is our hero.”

I can’t emphasize enough the battles this woman warrior has had to fight to be able to continue to provide this needed service. I can’t think of a more deserving candidate. I sincerely hope you will consider making Whitney your hero. She is definitely our hero, as any of the women who have worked with her will tell you

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9 Comments

  1. Maureen says:

    That’s crazy that Georgetown doesn’t allow midwives to practice! Their nursing school has a CNM program! Good for her for sticking it out.

  2. Nadia says:

    Whitney is amazing – she has the judgment to know when to be extraordinarily tough and unrelenting, or caring sensitive listener. She is a hero for the women of DC, and for the women’s rights movement.

  3. Rachel says:

    Whitney is a gifted medical professional – skillfully delivering hundreds of babies in the DC area each year in a true patient-centered way. Her true gift lies in her ability to empower women to realize that we are in charge of our bodies, our birthing experience and ourselves! Feeling empowered as a woman and to give birth has changed everything – especially the way I parent. Whitney is a true gift and one that I’ll always treasure.

  4. Mary from Derby, CT says:

    23 years ago as a 37 year old first time mother to be, I dug through old newspaper clippings to find Whitney Pinger’s write up in a local paper. I was not buying into the male medical monopoly on maternity. I connected immediately with Whitney’s positive energy, encouraging words and extensive library.

    To make a long story short, I commuted daily driving one hour each way to work till Thanksgiving Eve. And like clockwork, on my due date Monday, November 30 at 7:47 AM, I had my daughter. I arrived at Park City Hospital, Bridgeport, CT at 6:30 AM, where they were extremely welcoming to me and very warm and respectful to Whitney.

    I am shocked to hear Whitney needs to recreate the wheel in DC. At this point in her personal and professional lives, she should be recognized for the talent, knowledge and heart she consistently exhibits to all.

  5. Jenny says:

    I am forever grateful for the guidance, love and care I received under Whitney’s watch. She IS a hero dedicated to women, their babies and families and safe, natural births!

  6. dr mark mitchell (washington, d.c.) says:

    congratulations whitney!! if anyone ever looked up CNM in the dictionary, you probably would see the name, whitney pinger. there is no doubt that you set the bar for midwifery care. your accomplishments and dedication speak volumes for your unrelenting committment to women’s health care in the washington metorpolitan area. you are a scholar, educator, and leader in the field. as a colleague and a friend, i have learned so much from you over the many years of our working together. i can surely attest that you are most deserving of this recognition. i sincerely wish you the very best in all of your future endeavors.

  7. Whitney inspired me to pursue a midwife for my own pregnancies, and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience from pregnancy to birth and long after. Whitney is most definitely my hero too.

  8. Anat says:

    What separates Whitney from other providers is her commitment to the health of the pregnant woman and the baby. She is a huge advocate of having a nutritious and healthy pregnancy, making the pregnancy/delivery/postpartum much easier for the mom. She is a true hero and deserves an enormous amount of recognition for all of her efforts in the name of all pregnant women.