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Birth at Your Own Risk

By Amanda Dickman in News on Apr 17, 2007 9:20PM

2007_4_babies.jpgHaving a baby at home just isn't as easy as it used to be; forget the days of someone coming to your home, the boiling of water and biting on a leather strap. These days there are serious legal consequences for taking birth into your own hands. Well, not really your hands, more like the hands of a midwife.

While midwives have been around for years, some certified and some not, the state of Illinois will not provide licenses for midwives to deliver babies. As it stands now, only doctors and nurses can legally perform a delivery. And almost all work in hospitals. Which doesn't leave much of a choice for women who would prefer to have their baby at home.

But, like all of the diapers on those new bundles of joy, this may be set for a change.

Advocates for midwifery are pushing for the state to license "certified professional midwives," thus ensuring that when women seek out a midwife, they know for sure that they are dealing with someone who is appropriately qualified and licensed. In a promising move for this side, "the Illinois Senate voted 51-7 last month to legally recognize and license certified professional midwives." According to the North American Registry of Midwives, 22 states currently license properly certified professional midwives.

Opponents argue that delivering babies at home is too risky. If something were to go wrong with the baby or mother, there would be a serious lack of equipment and means to administer help. Midwives suggest that they know how to spot a problem pregnancy that would be better suited under the care of a physician. But what about problems that occur during the actual birth?

Both sides make compelling arguments, but the question remains — where is the true safety issue here? There is the obvious lack of medical equipment at the home, yes, but what about the women who, in choosing to give birth at home, aren't able to find appropriately certified and licensed midwives? Is that just the chance they have to take in this state?

Image via ankylosaur.