Countries and States Who Rely on Midwives Have Lower Maternal Death Rates

A nearly year long joint NPR/ProPublica investigation into the rising rate of maternal deaths in the U.S. has uncovered the pivotal role that midwives play in the safe delivery of babies. Mothers in the U.S. are dying at a rate three times greater than that of the next closest industrialized country. According to ProPublica, maternal death rates per 100,000 live births are as follows:

  1. United States = 26.4%
  2. France = 7.8%
  3. U.K. = 9.2%
  4. Sweden = 4.4%
  5. Denmark = 4.2%

France, U.K., Sweden and Denmark are all heavily reliant on midwife-led deliveries. 75% of mothers giving birth in France, Sweden and Denmark are attended to by a midwife, while 50% of U.K. births are led by a midwife. ProPublica has noted several times that Duchess Kate Middleton gave birth to all 3 of her children under the care of a midwife (overseen by the Royal Family’s personal OB/GYN).

Today, the U.S. has only 15,000 certified nurse midwives (CNM). To become a CNM, one must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), followed by a graduate degree in nursing with a focus in midwifery. Midwives are extremely valuable to expectant mothers and women in general. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, they can “perform physical exams, prescribe medications including contraceptive methods, order laboratory tests as needed, provide prenatal care, gynecological care, labor and birth care, as well as health education and counseling to women of all ages.”

In over half of U.S. counties there is not a single OB/GYN, forcing women to drive large, sometimes isolated distances to receive medical care and to deliver their babies. Midwives can fill this void, cutting down on the alarmingly high maternal death rate facing our country.


States Who Use Midwives Have Fewer Maternal Deaths
A large study led by a team of U.S. and Canadian researchers found that states who rely on midwives have fewer maternal and neonatal deaths, as well as fewer C-Sections. The study found that the three states who integrate midwives into the prenatal and birthing process the most (New Mexico, Oregon and Washington) have the lowest numbers of these instances and that states who use them the least have the highest number of deaths and C-Sections. Illinois scored in the bottom of states who heavily rely on midwives, ranking 40th.

The study’s lead investigator, Saraswathi Vedam, described how increasing the use of midwives in states and counties who have populations hardest hit by the maternal death crisis, namely black women, could benefit the most from having access to midwives. Earlier this year, the CDC reported that black women are 3-4x more likely to die during pregnancy or birth than white women, a statistic that has led many experts to identify racial discrimination in the health care system, health issues plaguing black women, and lack of access to prenatal care as the culprits.

As more attention is paid to the maternal death rate in the United States, many hope a push will follow for more midwives and more reliance on these medical professionals for prenatal care and deliveries.

Levin & Perconti Can Help
If you are a mother or loved one of a woman who experienced prenatal or delivery complications and believe a medical professional was at fault, contact the birth injury attorneys of Chicago’s Levin & Perconti. Our attorneys have stood beside mothers and bereaved loved ones who have had to suffer needlessly due to a provider’s neglect. We have fought and won cases against major medical groups and our results show our commitment to achieving the best result for you and your loved ones.

Please, contact us by phone (312) 332-2872 or by filling out our online case evaluation form to find out how we can help.



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