RALEIGH — A bill to give certified professional midwives the right to practice legally in North Carolina starting next summer was approved by a Senate Judiciary committee Thursday.
The bills passage was a first step in making home births safer for more women and their newborns, said its key sponsor Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington.
Some women are going to have their children at home anyway, Goolsby said. This legislation will let them get the help they need.
Even if the bill becomes law, it cannot become effective until a companion bill establishing licensing requirements is also adopted.
That bill, the Home Birth Freedom Act, has been introduced but stalled, lacking approval from a select committee that convenes only every two years and isnt set to meet again until the 2014 session, Goolsby said.
The legislation does not impact the practice of certified nurse midwives, a separate class of midwives who hold graduate nursing degrees and have been practicing in North Carolina since 1983.
Nurse midwives attend about 75 home births annually in North Carolina, but deliver more than 13,000 babies each year in hospitals or birthing centers, according to the state Center for Health Statistics. Approximately 125,000 babies are born in the state each year.
Certified nurse midwives must practice under supervision of physicians, who sometimes are reluctant to allow them to participate in home births, according to industry officials.
Certified professional midwives get their training through apprenticeships or midwifery education programs and can legally attend at-home births in Virginia or South Carolina but not North Carolina, Goolsby said. An estimated 25 certified professional midwives live in North Carolina.
Some Judiciary committee members voiced concerns about the safety of home births, but Goolsby said midwives are trained to refer patients to hospitals if complications arise.
Raleigh mom Tabetha Priest, who came to the legislature in support of the midwifery bill, said she had two of her four children at a hospital, one at home using a certified professional midwife, and one home birth attended only by her husband.
I think birth at home should be a mothers choice, Priest said.