Written by Bethany Gates, CPM
My name is Bethany Gates, and I am a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and a Certified Doula. I provide home birth midwifery care for women planning a home birth, and doula services for women desiring a hospital birth and wanting the support of a doula.
Because home birth has only recently re-emerged as a mainstream alternative to hospital births, I thought it fitting that I start this blog by introducing a series of posts that address the common myths surrounding home birth. The first myth I want to address is one of the most common objections you’ll hear when talking about home birth. Keep in mind that as I am based out of Iowa, I am addressing this post with Iowa law in mind. Every state has its own laws regarding the practice of midwifery so if you’re not in Iowa, please research your own state laws.
Myth #1: Home birth is illegal.
This is one of the biggest objections to home birth that you might hear when looking into a home birth. It is a common misconception that only Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM’s) can attend home births in Iowa. However, with 50 different states that have the freedom to make their own laws, there are 50 different possibilities for addressing the legal status of CPM’s and direct entry midwives.
There are several common approaches states take when it comes to home birth and home birth midwives.
Approach 1: States require midwives to apply for and receive a license to practice legally in their state.
Approach 2: States offer a license for midwives who wish to apply for one, but do not require a license to practice (this is most notable in Minnesota).
Approach 3: States do not address midwifery in their law at all and midwives practice without state regulation/rules.
Approach 4: States specifically list midwives as providers in their law but do not offer or require a license.
Iowa fits in the third approach, where the Iowa Legislature has never passed a law regulating home birth midwives. There are some people who believe that non-nurse midwives could be charged with practicing medicine without a license, but in 2013 an Iowa judge ruled that midwifery is not the practice of medicine or nursing, and stated that because Iowa has no law regulating CPM’s or traditional midwives, a midwife should not be charged with practicing medicine without a license.
The number of Iowa women who give birth at home each year has increased from 370 ten years ago to over 500 each year! The vast majority of these births are attended by Certified Professional Midwives or traditional midwives (apprentice-trained, but have not gone through the certification process). At this time, there are no CNM’s who attend home births in the Cedar Valley so home births are attended by CPM’s and traditional midwives.
As of 2012, the United States out-of-hospital birth rate averaged 1.36% with some states seeing as many as 6% of births taking place outside of the hospital. Iowa ranges between 1-2% of all births taking place at home. The number of out-of-hospital births continued to rise.
My next post will address another common myth about home birth: Myth #2: Home Birth Isn’t Safe.
If you have a myth or question about home birth that you would like me to talk about, please contact me.