Politics & Government

These midwives are illegal in NC. They want the right to deliver your baby at home.

A certified midwife measures an expectant mother's tummy during a prenatal checkup. Certified professional midwives in North Carolina are trying to win the right to attend to pregnant women and assist in deliveries, particularly in home births.
A certified midwife measures an expectant mother's tummy during a prenatal checkup. Certified professional midwives in North Carolina are trying to win the right to attend to pregnant women and assist in deliveries, particularly in home births.

Midwives who are prohibited by state law from delivering babies in North Carolina are renewing their perennial fight to win the right to work here.

North Carolina is one of six states that prohibits certified professional midwives from assisting in child birth. These are midwives who are certified in midwifery, but do not have a nursing degree. North Carolina requires a midwife to have a nursing degree and written consent from a supervising physician.

In states where they can work, certified professional midwives often deliver babies in private homes and sometimes in natural birth centers. In North Carolina, some assist in home births illegally, said Audrey Trepiccione, a Garner midwife and vice president of N.C. Friends of Midwives.

Last year, of the 122,061 babies born in North Carolina, 606 came into the world at home. That small number is partly because home births are not as popular in North Carolina as in some states and in European countries, and partly because there's a shortage of midwives to assist delivering moms.

The state has 341 nurse midwives, but only an estimated half-dozen attend home births, said Deb Fiore, a nurse midwife at Carrboro Midwifery Homebirth Services.

Certified professional midwives argue that if they could work legally in North Carolina more women would take advantage of their services and have home births.

"Every kind of woman has a home birth," said Trepiccione. "The religious kind, the private kind, the home-school mom, doctors and nurses have home births."

Friends of Midwives is planning a fund raiser in Garner's White Deer Park on Saturday afternoon, where up to 200 midwives, home birth parents and other supporters are expected to come for an annual reunion, speeches and socializing. The organization is planning another push to persuade the state legislature to make certified professional midwives legal in the state.

The midwives have lobbied to be licensed and regulated in North Carolina for years, their efforts leading to legislation being introduced numerous times since 2000. They came closest in 2013, when a bill that would have legalized their practice got as far as the N.C. Senate floor before it was yanked from the calendar and killed.

They meet resistance every time from the state's medical establishment. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, home births have higher rates of child mortality than hospital births, but the degree of risk is a matter of dispute. In the United States, approximately 35,000 births — or 0.9 percent of all births — take place in the home.

It's not clear how many certified professional midwives are delivering babies illegally in the state. Trepiccione, 54, said she delivered hundreds of babies at home in North Carolina between 1997 and 2011, the year she was accused by the N.C. Board of Nursing of practicing without a license and agreed to the board's cease-and-desist order.

"I did it openly," Trepiccione said. "I signed birth certificates. That's why I got busted."

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski

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