Mollie Hartford: Extending the option of home birth and midwife care

  • Tanya Rapinchuk, a certified professional midwife at Sacred Birth Midwifery Care in Northampton, talks about new legislation regarding her profession at her home in Worthington, Thursday, May 9, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 5/14/2019 10:19:02 AM

After reading “Bill could expand access to home births” in the Hampshire Gazette 5-13-19, I am compelled to share my experience. In 2016, I gave birth to my son, Calvin, in my apartment in Northampton. I chose a home birth attended by Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) because I was healthy, low risk, and wanted to avoid the routine interventions often pressed upon birthing people in hospitals.

I was lucky enough that our local hospital was prepared to admit us if we had to transfer there for delivery, and even luckier that my family could afford the out-of-pocket fees for my amazing providers. But luck (and privilege) should not play a part in deciding the healthiest way to give birth. Unfortunately, that is exactly the current situation in our state. Massachusetts does not yet legally recognize CPMs, which means that private insurance and Medicaid does not cover home-birth providers. This also impedes collaboration between CPMs and hospital medical staff, leading to some hospitals refusing to accept home-birthing families, putting the health of mothers and babies at risk. Numerous studies have confirmed the safety of home birth and the benefits of midwifery care for birthing people and babies, including fewer C-sections, postpartum complications and infant deaths.

In our health care system, where we have the worst maternal mortality rates in the industrialized world, and where black women birthing in hospitals are twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes and have twice the rate of severe maternal morbidities as white women, we do a great disservice to all our birthing families to deny them the opportunity to have a safe, respectful birth in their homes. The Out-of-Hospital Birth Access and Safety Act will extend the option of home birth and certified professional midwife care to low-income women who depend on Medicaid reimbursement.

It is time for Massachusetts to ensure that hospitals can collaborate efficiently and respectfully with CPMs, that CPMs have the recognized legal status to be insured by private insurance and Medicaid, and that every family choosing a home birth can hire and afford a licensed midwife.

Mollie Hartford
Northampton


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