Apr 26, 2011

More American Women Choosing Midwives

By Stephanie Bathurst
For Reporting Texas

The past two decades have brought about a revival in midwifery, the practice supporting a natural approach to childbirth over traditional operating-room and hospital births.

That revival has created an increase in demand for midwives across the country, something Austin midwife April Bullock is very familiar with.

Bullock, a midwife at Birthwise Birth and Family Center on Manor Road in East Austin, has been delivering babies for 11 years, said business is growing in Austin.

“Business has been really good” said Bullock, who opened Birthwise in 2006. “I have actually had to hire on two extra apprentices recently. It seems like there is always a birth going on.”

In the United States, women facing traditional births often have to consider C-sections, medications, and other medical procedures that otherwise wouldn’t be part of the natural birthing procedure. That said, advocates of physician-supervised hospital births point to studies that suggest that a lower level of medical intervention during a planned home birth might be associated with an increase in the neonatal mortality rate.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a Committee Opinion statement in the February 2011 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology titled Planned Home Birth:

“Although the absolute risk of planned home births is low, published medical evidence shows it does carry a two- to three-fold increase in the risk of newborn death compared with planned hospital births.”

Still, concerns linger over hospital births.

In the U.S., about one in three babies are now delivered via C-Section. The number of women receiving medical intervention is up from one in five just over a decade ago, according to the Planned Home Birth report.

American women and children are dying during childbirth at the highest rate in decades.  In 2010, six in 1,000 births led to infant deaths – the second highest rate among developed countries, just behind Latvia.

According to a recent study done by the University of Washington, 17 in every 100,000 women giving birth in the U.S.  in 2008 died during labor. That places the U.S. 39th in the world in material mortality after most industrialized nations such as Italy, France, Germany, and Poland.

Looking for alternative and safe solutions for a growing problem, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $31 million to 26 American nursing schools in October 2010 to increase, in part, enrollment in nurse midwife programs that might continue to feed midwife centers like Bullock’s.