Number of Midwife-Attended Births in US Hits All-Time High

A new report from the CDC shows that midwives are becoming more popular in the US– in 2009, midwives attended 8.1% of the nation’s births, a record high. If you look at vaginal births only–midwives do not perform c-sections–that number rises to 12.1%, or 1 in 8 vaginal births.

Eugene Declercq, professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health, is quoted in this week’s Time Magazine: “If this trend continues, it will bring us more in line with the rest of the world in giving midwives a central role in prenatal care and birth. Given that other countries have lower costs and better outcomes, it would be a positive thing for this country.”

The move to more midwifery care may be a response to the climbing c-section rate (one-in-three US babies is born via surgery). Midwives tend to use fewer medical interventions than obstetricians, who are trained surgeons. Midwives are medically trained professionals who provide all prenatal care, labor support and postpartum check-ups for pregnant women. A pregnant women can opt for a midwife or a doctor– a midwife, in other words, is the primary maternity care provider.

The midwifery model of care emphasizes a more hands-off approach in terms of medical intervention. Broadly speaking they tend to be patient with the normal (long) physiological process of birth. Having said that, midwives prescribe medication, administer or request testing, assist epidural-births and call for c-sections. They can be covered by insurance and work in hospitals, birthing centers or attend home births. (Read about the difference between a midwife and a doula.)

Recently the New York Times ran a trend piece about how midwives are all the rage among chic NYC women. The tone of the piece rubbed some people the wrong way– woman make decisions about their healthcare based on more than what’s trendy! But it’s true that in NYC, where I live, the midwifery practices are booked out very fast. (Note to NYC: More midwives, please.)

The status of midwives varies state-by-state. The Pacific Northwest is famous for it’s midwifery leanings, and 24% of all births in New Mexico are assisted by midwives (this state also has one of the lowest c-section rates in the country.) The South is not so hot for midwifery, with the exception of Georgia where midwives assist 18% of all vaginal births.

ON BABBLE

 

Ceridwen Morris (CCE) is a certified childbirth educator and the co-author of the pregnancy and baby book, From The Hips. Follow her birth blogging on Facebook.

 

 

Photo: Gregory R Allen/Flickr

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