News Maternity and Birthing

Delaware De-Criminalizes Midwifery During Home Births

Martha Kempner

Though certified professional midwives train for three to five years to become nationally certified, most states also require a state certification.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markel (D) last week signed a bill into law that will allow for the certification of non-nurse midwives, who will be able to attend to home births.

HB 70 establishes the Midwifery Advisory Council, which will be responsible for creating regulations and overseeing the practice of midwifery in the state. This is a step forward for certified professional midwives (CPMs) who, until now, could face criminal charges if they helped a woman give birth at home in Delaware.

Delaware’s laws made it almost impossible for midwives to attend home births. Though CPMs train for three to five years to become nationally certified, most states also require a state certification. Delaware would only give such certification if a CPM entered into a collaborative agreement with a licensed physician. But physicians in the state would almost never enter such agreements because their malpractice insurance would not cover midwives or home births.

A CPM who attended to a home birth without a collaborative agreement faced a felony charge and a fine of at least $1,000 for the unauthorized practice of medicine. As Rewire reported when the bill was first introduced last year, there were only three CPMs in the state. Two of them had been sent cease and desist letters for attending home births and could have been at risk for criminal charges.

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The third found a physician who would enter into a collaborative agreement because she worked with Amish women who generally don’t use hospital-based care.

Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark) introduced HB 70.

Midwives and expectant mothers, many of whom lobbied legislators to pass the bill, are now looking forward to the creation of the newly established Midwifery Advisory Council, which will have to be approved by the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline.

Susan DiNatale, a CPM from Dover, told WBOC that she believes a number of expecting mothers will take advantage of their newfound birth options.

“And I think there will be more midwives coming here, or at least getting licensed here, who might live in neighboring states,” DiNatale said.

Katie Kline, who is expecting her second child in September, had wanted to give birth the first time at a birthing center, but the laws made that tricky and she delivered at a hospital instead. “After that experience it really made me double down on my efforts to see home birth access expanded for mothers in Delaware,” she told WBOC.

Now Kline is hoping the new rules are enacted quickly. “I’d love for this baby to be the first legal home birth in Delaware.”

Delaware is not the only state to change laws regulating midwives and home births, as the number of births that take place outside of a hospital setting increase around the country. Out-of-hospital births increased by 60 percent between 2004 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Neighboring Maryland enacted a law this year that will license non-nurse midwives and make it legal for them to attend to home births, as Rewire reported.

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