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Some Birth Inspiration From Taos, New Mexico

Here’s a nice one for Thanksgiving: I just watched this really lovely, short video about midwives serving a diverse population of women around Taos, New Mexico. Some of the women give birth at home, some in hospitals. All are treated with a lot of kindness and respect.

Joan Norris, one of the professional midwives profiled, tells the story of her work in this region: “New Mexico has a long history of out-of-hospital birth and rural midwives. We’re trained to be the guardians of normal birth, low-risk birth. You see a large… variety in homes—trailers to very nice houses.”

According to the New Mexico Office Of The State Historian, New Mexico midwives are not just a rural phenomenon. In Albuquerque more than a third of births are attended by midwives. In Las Cruces half of them are. In 2003, midwives attended 30.5 percent of all New Mexico births—by far the highest rate in the nation. The cesarean rate was 20.3 percent, significantly lower than the national rate.

The video also gets at the heart of what midwifery is all about. “You work though all kinds of emotions, feelings, opinions everyday when you’re a midwife. Because so many things change from moment to moment,” says Norris.

“The reason it’s safe,” she continues, “is because we take so much time to really hear. If someone has physical problems, chronic disease we won’t be able to do their birth but we can do co-care with the doctors and they will have a hospital birth that we’ll attend to.”

I think what makes me happiest about this video is what sounds like a good collaboration between these community midwives and the local doctors and hospitals. This is such an important relationship– in too many places it’s one fraught with tensions which end up bringing down the quality of care.

Roberta Moore, Maternal Health Program Manager for the New Mexico Department of Health, points out, “Because almost every county [in New Mexico] is federally designated as medically underserved, there is less competition than there is in many other states. Many areas cannot support enough obstetric providers, so midwives are welcome.”

If you’d like to read more about the work being done by midwives in New Mexico, have a look here or here.

photo: Criag Schneider/State Journal

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