By Namoi Starsiak

On Jan. 18th, 2019 the state of Alabama issued licenses for five Certified Professional Midwifes to practice. The last time that state issued a license to a CPM was in 1976.

New York state is facing the same situation. Several years ago changes to the midwifery laws left CPM’s without a path to a license but there are groups that are challenging that ruling.

First, what are the different types of midwife? Here in New York the only legally allowed midwife is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), someone who has gone through nursing school and become a Registered Nurse before continuing on to a midwifery program. Most CNM’s work in a hospital setting, although there are a few who have home birth practices.

A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is someone who has only studied midwifery, some time in a school setting but practical apprenticeship is also a large means of learning for these women. No matter the path of learning, they all must past a test overseen by the North American Registry of Midwives. These midwives focus solely on home or out-of-hospital births.

The reason women in New York are asking for CPM’s to be legal is down to a matter of supply and demand. The average women in New York state is over 1 hour from a hospital with a delivery ward. CPM’s tend to practice in rural settings, which places an educated birth attendant in a much closer proximity to these women. This helps both the pregnant women and the hospitals too – one area in western New York had an older home birth midwife retire and the number of women coming to the closest small hospital increased by nearly 200 over the year, putting a huge strain on their staff.

It also is a matter of choice. Should women who have a low risk pregnancy be allowed to choose the location of their birth and the attendant who will assist them? Are women capable of making informed decisions about their bodies?

If you’d like more information about the push for CPMs to become legal in New York visit “NY Friends of CPMs” on facebook or www.nycpm501c4.org.

Naomi Starsiak is a birth and postpartum doula, a natural birth consultant, and the co-owner of A Peaceful Birth doula & childbirth service. You can find her on Facebook at facebook.com/APeacefulBirthDoulas.

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