Birth Center Study Shows Excellent Outcomes for CPMs and CNMs, Points to Need for More Access for Low-Income Women

Members of the Big Push for Midwives Campaign applaud the publication of the American Association of Birth Centers' landmark National Birth Center Study II in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.

The national prospective study pointed to excellent outcomes in midwife-led birth centers run by both Certified Professional Midwives and Certified Nurse-Midwives. Seventy-nine birth centers participated in the study, recording data for more than 15,000 prenatal courses and births. For more information and insights, check out the blog posts and alerts from Childbirth Connection, Citizens for Midwifery, Lamaze International's Science and Sensibility and many others about the study.

While it wasn’t intended as a direct comparison of CPM and CNM outcomes in birth centers, the study nevertheless provides solid evidence that the excellent outcomes achieved in these birth centers occurred regardless of whether a CNM, a CPM, or a joint team of both provided the midwifery care. At the same time the study, which was published in a scientific peer-reviewed journal, shows that outcomes are not dependent upon any one particular midwifery certification program or any particular educational pathway to certification.

The Big Push calls on policy makers to focus on the demographics of the more than 15,000 women who participated in the study. The majority of birth center consumers were middle-class white women, confirming the unfortunate reality that women of color and low-income women are much less likely to take advantage of the out-of-hospital birth options that produce such excellent outcomes.

Increasing access to birth centers through section 2301 of the Affordable Care Act, which added birth centers and midwifery care in birth centers as mandatory Medicaid services, as well as access to home birth through federal legislation that would guarantee CPMs as providers of a mandated Medicaid service, are necessary steps to making the midwives model care in both settings accessible to all women.

The first step needs to be continued pushing for licensing for CPMs, the specialists in out-of-hospital maternity care, to legally practice in all fifty states. Unless they are licensed by their state, CPMs cannot be included in Medicaid, Tricare, and other government programs – including the new health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act – that will make midwifery care accessible to all women. This new study should go far to convince state legislators to license midwives and federal policymakers to include CPMs in these payment systems and other federal health care programs.

We are keeping the focus on what really matters, after all – delivering the kind of excellent woman-centered care highlighted in this study to the women to want and need it.

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