Increasing popularity of midwives in North Dakota

During the 20th century, midwifery waned in popularity as the location of birthing in the United States became increasingly more common inside a hospital. Midwifes were replaced by physician birth attendants, and the legal status of midwifery was threatened due to the new competitive market. The ancient profession, which can be found in almost every major culture, was on the brink of being completely illegal. Currently, midwifery is entering a renaissance of legality due to a handful of advocacy groups and studies highlighting some of the benefits of home-birth midwifery as a viable alternative for some families.

In North Dakota, only nurse-midwifery is allowed and licensed by the state. This practice is largely hospital-based. Certified midwives and professional midwives, which are not allowed in the state, typically work in private homes and freestanding birth centers. They are the only U.S. birth attendants whose education and clinical training focuses exclusively on out-of-hospital birth settings. Currently, there are 28 states that allow at-home midwifery.

Pregnancy and childbirth impact the health of women, newborns and families on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level. Midwives are experts in normal birth and adept at ensuring excellent outcomes for women and infants. In the United States, midwives aid in 10 percent of all births. Compared to the rest of the world, midwives account for approximately 70 percent of all childbirths, according to Midwives Alliance North America.

Studies have shown that midwife birthing decreases the risk of cesarean delivery and premature birth. In addition, families who opt for midwife-assisted birth describe having a more empowering and satisfying experience.

The countries with the lowest infant and mother mortality rates are those in which midwifery is a valued tradition. Midwife-led maternity care results in reduced infant and maternal mortality, fewer medical interventions, decreased costs, increased savings and improved client satisfaction.

At this point in our national history, women and families deserve childbirth options. The kind of knowledge that a midwife can pass on to a family going through homebirth will transform women and men into engaged, informed, and empowered parents of the children who will lead our next generation forward. By keeping the practice illegal in 22 states, the United States is hindering parents freedom of choice and access to information.

Nick Sallen is the Editor-in-chief of The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]