A Midwife for All Women: Whitney Pinger

April 15, 2010

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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