Where are all the midwives and what are they doing?

Today I read an interesting blog by Theologian Mom . In it she discussed the difficulty she had in trying to find a birth center and then a midwifery practice close enough to her. You’d think she lived in a large rural state, but in fact she lived in New Jersey. It got me to thinking about what midwives do and where they are doing it. Well, at least CNM/CMs.

I work in PA and there are plenty of non nurse midwives doing home birth all around me. Many of them very good. But some, unlicensed in PA, well lets just say I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to them. But home birth midwives, no matter who they are represent a midwifery group that is rarely seen. They challenge the status quo by their existence, but in reality most of maternity care doesnt even know who they are or what they are doing or how many. They are invisible by the nature of home birth.

So I decided to look up a few stats. The latest CDC report from 2006 lists a total of 4,265,555 births, 3,905,146 (91.5%) by physicians and 336,347 (7.8%) by all midwives. Of those 4,226,624 (99%) occurred in hospitals, and 38,568 (1%) out of hospital. 97% of CNM/CM delivered in hospitals, 2% of them delivered in birth centers and only 1% delivered at homes. 39.7% of all out of hospital births were done by other midwives.

So, another good question is, who are all these hospital based midwives working for? I searched all over the ACNM website and could not find that out. My guess it that not too many of them worked for themselves.

Why does this matter? If we are looking for a social change, a paradigm shift in maternity care, we must have an impact. We need to make mainstream maternity care think about what they are doing and that there are many ways, safe ways, to have a baby. When we are at home (and my last baby I had at home) we actually are hiding away. Now as the mom, I knew it was what I needed to do, but now as a midwife, I know I need to do more.

There are not enough midwife entrepeneurs, not enough midwife run practices and not enough birth centers!  How can we change maternity care if we can’t even have a midwifery run practice?  I know there are some very supportive OBs out there, I even am lucky enough to work with one.  But the bottom line is, Midwives and OBs are different, we have a different model of care and no amount of “support” can replace that.  Midwifery education needs to talk business, they need to talk public health and help create a new generation of midwives ready for the change coming in health care.

2 thoughts on “Where are all the midwives and what are they doing?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. We are a grassroots organization seeking to increase access to midwives in hospitals, free-standing birth centers and at home through education and advocacy. We formed when 2 CNMs were fired from a local private practice leaving 80 pregnant women without their care provider of choice. Go to our website to see a video about our story. I believe now is the time for all midwives and their consumers to stand together and demand change.

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