The Big Push for Midwives

BlogHer Original Post

Obama, Clinton, McCain, Romney, Paul and Huckabee aren't the only ones hitting the campaign trail this winter. Thanks to a nonpartisan coalition of consumer advocates, The Big Push for Midwives - a campaign of a different variety, but equally as important - is pushing for the regulation and licensure of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Midwife with mother and babyAccording to The Chicago Tribune, "Certified professional midwives, who are lay practitioners specializing in home births, are banned in 26 states... They fall under a different legal classification than certified nurse-midwives, advanced practice nurses who are licensed in all 50 states and work mainly in hospitals."

Why is this important?

We live in an age where surgical birth via cesarean section (which is full of risks to both the mother and the baby) is becoming more and more common, while physiological birth (where labor starts spontaneously, progresses spontaneously without drugs, and birth happens spontaneously) is almost unheard of in many hospitals. Yet many women want the option of a physiological birth with a trained care provider (midwife) in a birthing center or in their own home. However, because of current laws, that option is not always available.

I believe that all women deserve the right to choose a maternity care provider that is best for their needs which is why The Big Push for Midwives is so important.

The Big Push for Midwives is a nationally coordinated campaign to advocate for regulation and licensure of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and to push back against the attempts of the American Medical Association Scope of Practice Partnership to deny American families access to legal midwifery care.

Our goals are to fully integrate the Midwives Model of Care into the health care systems of our states, to highlight the importance of family healthcare choices and to defend the ability of CPMs to provide legal and safe prenatal, birth and postpartum care to families in every state. Childbirth activists from the campaign’s participating states are pooling their collective resources and experience to coordinate and optimize advocacy efforts during 2008.

Amie Newman at RH Reality Check links midwifery and home birth with the rest of reproductive freedom, and believes that women should have the right to childbirth choices just as they do the right to abortion choices.

Hmmm. Sounds like reproductive justice to me. Substitute "abortion access" for "Midwives Model of Care," "abortion providers" for "CPMs," and "abortion care" for "prenatal, birth and postpartum care" and you can see how the underlying issues are essentially the same whether you're talking about abortion rights or childbirth choices.

That is, whether we're talking about provider choices for childbirth or access to abortion, it is not too much to ask that wherever women live in this nation, the options for reproductive health care are not effectively criminalized in some states and legal in others.

Jennifer Block at Pushed Birth notes that:

... the research data, as well as other countries that are caring for women and babies better than we are, show that midwives should be supporting normal labor and deliveries (the majority), while MDs should be caring for the complications, emergencies, and women with risk factors. This “division of labor” also happens to be far more cost-effective than our current system, which bleeds more cash for less care than any other in the world. The bottom line from a public health perspective: home-birth midwives should be legitimate care providers, not criminals.

Erika of Inspired Mama Musings headed out on her birthday of Jan. 24 with her two kids in tow to a peaceful protest at the capitol building in Idaho to support her local midwives, a cause that's near and dear to her heart.

I am very fortunate and blessed to have had births attended by midwives and my hope is that the women and families of Idaho will always have that option.

Idaho is just one of 20 states that are introducing legislation or have legislation in the planning stages. Pennsylvania is another.

Annette of Natural Childhood also attended a rally supporting midwives at the capitol in Harrisburg, Penn., and included several pictures from the rally on her blog.

Our Bodies, Ourselves is also a supporter of The Big Push.

"This is the perfect time to insist that women in all communities have access to the option of midwifery care," said Executive Director Judy Norsigian. "This would lower the number of unnecessary cesareans and enable many more women to enjoy the benefits of active support during labor and birth."

Also worth noting is the book "Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth" is due out in March and includes information about the benefits of midwifery. And there's a great article on the Our Bodies, Ourselves web site that compares and contrasts the type of care typically provided by midwives vs. that provided by obstetricians.

The Midwives Model of Care, based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes, is a fundamentally different approach to pregnancy and childbirth and is in stark contrast to the standard Medical Model of Care. "The application of this woman-centered model of care has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section."

If you're interested in advocating on behalf of licensing CPMs in your state, please check the list of state organizations and their various discussion lists and websites, where you can find out more information about how to get involved. If your state isn't on this list and you'd like to get involved, you may email Katie Prown and she can point you to additional resources. You may also make a donation to The Big Push for Midwives Campaign.


Photo credit: Thanks to Homestyle Midwifery Care for this beautiful image.

Contributing editor Amy Gates also blogs about attachment parenting, activism, green living and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

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