Not all midwives in Mississippi are required to be licensed but advocates want that to change

Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 7:45 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Women with low-risk pregnancies can choose to receive care from a midwife. But Mississippi is one of only 15 states where some of those women are not licensed.

”In 2019, I attempted a home birth with a midwife whose care was not up to professional standards, unbeknownst to me at the time, obviously,” explained Rachel Sutton. “And my son ended up passing away due to that.”

Rachel Sutton’s tragedy has turned into purpose. She and the group Better Birth want the state to require a license for direct-entry midwives.

“People don’t even realize that this is an issue,” she said. “And that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing is because this is an issue and it’s going to happen again, this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last if this doesn’t get passed.”

Sutton’s most recent birth was also at home with a midwife and no complications. While that’s the most common outcome, they know mistakes are made, no matter the profession.

“So the biggest thing from this that Better Birth is working towards is so consumers have a route of accountability,” noted Better Birth board member Erin Raftery.

Of note, not all midwives are unlicensed in Mississippi. Some certified nurse midwives are licensed as advanced practice nurses. One of those is Amy White who discussed the benefits of licensure for her direct-care counterparts.

“Licensure also offers minimum competency standards,” noted Amy White, CNM. “So not minimum education standards, but minimum competency standards. And that’s always that’s important for anybody who’s caring for any, any other human being.”

Getty Israel works with certified nurse midwives at Sisters in Birth explains that fuller acceptance of midwives could fill in many of the maternal access problems the state is facing.

“They’re already doing it,” explained Israel. “They’re just doing it on the margins. Midwives need to be fully integrated into our healthcare system... We have 50 counties with no obstetric providers. So midwives could become those providers.”

But she says that would require a change to laws that tie them to collaborative agreements with doctors.

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