As the world grapples with what feels like a big shift in the universe, FAM would like to share our thoughts about the role of midwives and community birth in a pandemic. Now, more than ever, our mission and vision for midwifery need to stay front and center.
Please see FAM’s statement “Out-of-Hospital Birth and Pandemic Planning” released today, March 23, 2020. We encourage advocates to use and share this as a basis for the local policies you need to support midwives and the families they serve.
Midwives are on the frontlines of the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic. Whether serving in hospitals, birth centers, or homes, midwives are providing essential health care. Midwives are experiencing a sharp increase in demand for their care in community birth settings: homes and freestanding birth centers. Community birth in a pandemic supports the need to reduce the spread of disease through social distancing while preserving much-needed hospital capacity for lifesaving care of COVID-19 patients.
Unfortunately, the successful campaign to eradicate midwifery in the U.S. 100 years ago has persistent repercussions today. The continued marginalization of midwifery has left us with a woefully inadequate capacity and infrastructure to deliver safe maternity care outside of the hospital during a pandemic. In fact, some states continue to criminalize and arrest midwives at this time of critical need.
In a world where midwifery is mainstream, and the World Health Organization has designated 2020 as the year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the United States stands out in our lack of access to midwives. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the excellent outcomes with midwifery-led care, midwifery care integration is inconsistent and inadequate across the country. We urgently need to make greater use of midwives to improve our abysmal and tragic outcomes, with astoundingly high rates of preventable maternal and infant deaths.
In the time of a pandemic, the deficiencies in our systems are revealed and amplified. Now is the time to decriminalize midwives once and for all. Now is the time to integrate midwifery and community birth in every state. Now is the time to make access to community birth equitable for clients and midwives through inclusion and fair payments from insurers and Medicaid. Now is the time to make short and long-term investments in a robust and diverse midwifery workforce.
Together we can make a difference. Continue to stay connected to FAM as a resource for updates as the push for integrating midwifery into every community in every state ramps up.
Tamara Wrenn, Executive Director, & Emily Anesta, Board President