Importing Midwives and Exporting Babies: Illinois’ Little Secret Gets National Attention

Illinois midwifery and home birth have gotten a lot of national attention lately. In late August, there was a Time Magazine article on the controversies surrounding home birth in the U.S.A. In the opening paragraph, there was a description of an Illinois home birth mama who eventually jumped the border to have her baby in Missouri because the home birth situation in Illinois was so full of angst.

Late last week, the New York Times published an entire article about Illinois home birth. The title was (to us activists) exciting and provocative – “Use of Midwives Rises, Challenging the State to Respond”. This article features an Illinois student midwife who crossed the border, moving to Wisconsin to complete her education and work legally. Also in the same article, is an Illinois mama who moved to Wisconsin to follow her midwife.

Is there a pattern here??  Yes – moms and midwives crossing the border into friendlier states. It’s as if there are signs at the border pointing AWAY from our state   →  This Way To A Better Birth.

This is only half the story, however. The Coalition for Illinois Midwifery is also aware of women bringing midwives IN to Illinois. Although not clearly stated in the NYT article, some of the mamas interviewed actually imported their home birth midwives from other states. And they’re not the only ones. Over the past several years Illinois home birth mothers have brought midwives in from Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Oregon, Montana, California, and probably quite a few more.

Bringing a midwife in or taking a jaunt across the border are both viable options for women, but are they really the best options?

Comfort is an issue. Anyone who remembers the last few weeks of their pregnancy knows the last thing they want to do is take a long drive anywhere, much less in labor.

Safety is an issue. Should a woman need a higher level of care, her imported midwife is unlikely to be familiar with the local options. And for mamas who have traveled, ending up in a strange hospital, miles from their supportive network of friends and family, can negatively impact their well-being.

Pride is an issue. Can we not serve our own?

With national attention finally on the subject, we can hope that our state legislature will find it in their hearts to make sure that women who choose home birth in Illinois, have enough providers willing to serve them. Given that we have at least 30 years of evidence that nurse-midwives and physicians cannot and will not meet that demand, it is time to recognize those who will and assure that they have met national certification standards. Licensure of certified professional midwives (CPMs) is the only way.

Otherwise we’d better start building those border signs.

I’ve Been Reading…

I should be doing my reading and writing for achieving my DONA and Birthing From Within certifications. And yet, I’ve been seeing all sorts of interesting items online, pulling my attention away from the hard-copy stack on my desk. Social media: good for networking and getting new information, bad for getting things crossed off a doula and birth mentor’s to-do list.

Here is a sampling of the articles and blogs that have caught my interest as of late. They span birth, motherhood, breastfeeding, feminism, racism and a bit of pop culture thrown in:

LA Times, “Childbirth: Can the US Improve?”

Henci Goer: Elective Induction of Labor

From Healthy Times “Risk to Baby Rises With Repeat C-Sections”

MamaHeartsBaby: A Baby Came Out of My Vagina

Science and Sensibility: First, Do No Harm: Another Reason to Ditch Routine IVs in Labor

Hoyden About Town: Missing The Point Awards, Manchester poster edition

Chicago HypnoBirthing: Kismet

Anti-Racist Parent: Just Like Me

Birth Write: Remembering Pearls of Mothering Advice

Hit Me Back!: Thoughts on the Mom-in-Chief

Womanist Musings: What White Women Can Do

Nov 30: A Sad Day for This Trekkie

Feel free to add your own!

Another reason why I am a member of the oxytocin fan club

A new study, to be published in the May issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, shows that women who breastfed earlier in life had significantly lower rates of high cholsterol, high blood pressure and diabetes later in life. This week The New York Times published this article detailing the results of the study of just under 140,000 women. In speculating to the reporter about whether there is a direct causal link for this, Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the N.Y.U. Women’s Heart Center suggested  “it could lie in oxytocin, a hormone crucial to milk production. Oxytocin is known to relax blood vessels, she said, and may make them more flexible and more resistant to the buildup of plaque.”

Yet another reason I have a crush on oxytocin.

“Women step up to breastfeed motherless infant”

I just read this article from Michigan and it brought me to tears. (Thanks to Michelle for the link) What this group of women are doing for this baby and father is truly amazing. And yet somehow, I wonder if they are not all that rare. I trust that there are thousands if not millions of other mothers who would do the same if we knew of the need. I wish them all the absolute best.

Reading About Cesarean Birth…

It’s been a week for articles of interest about Cesareans:

UNICEF has issued a new report: State of the World’s Children 2009: Maternal and Newborn Health, which reiterates the UN recommendation for a cesarean rate range of 5% to 15%. (Average rates in the US are above 30%.)

Time Magazine has an article in its latest issue addressing the sea change in hospital policies toward VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean): http://tinyurl.com/cg6oqo

And while not new, I found this article about the impact of lack of sleep on rates of longer labors and cesareans: http://tinyurl.com/bqubs2 at the site of a fellow Birthing From Within® mentor in Vancouver, BC.