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IL Groups Back Licensing for Certified Professional Midwives

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Studies say increased access to midwifery can improve maternal and infant health outcomes. (Monkey Business/Adobe Stock)
Studies say increased access to midwifery can improve maternal and infant health outcomes. (Monkey Business/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
May 5, 2021

CHICAGO - Illinois is one of 16 states that doesn't offer a pathway to licensure for certified professional midwives. On this International Midwives' Day, advocates are hoping to change that.

CPMs are accredited by the North American Registry of Midwives, but in order to legally practice, they also need a state license. Barbara Belcore-Walkden, a CPM who lives in Illinois but is licensed in neighboring Wisconsin, urged Illinois senators to join their House colleagues in passing the Licensed Certified Professional Midwife Practice Act.

"In a state like Illinois," she said, "where close to 1,000 babies are born at home every year, and it's gone up since the pandemic, as that number is increasing, more families need midwives to attend them at home."

Studies have shown that increased access to midwives and other high-quality maternity care can improve health outcomes for babies and mothers. Advocates have said it's also an equity issue; Black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than are Caucasian women.

Having a license would ensure midwives in Illinois can file birth certificates and transfer records if a home-birth patient has to be admitted to a hospital. So, Carrie Vickery, vice president of the group Illinois Friends of Midwives, said a CPM license is critical. Vickery, a home-birth parent herself, added that licensing would give folks the opportunity to better vet their potential birth attendants, find out what types of credentials and experience they have.

"It means greater access," she said. "Right now, to find a midwife, it's an 'underground' system. So, you have to know the right people, to be able to connect to the right person who knows the midwife."

When midwives are well integrated into the maternity-care system, she said, it's better for those who opt for home births as well as hospital births. She said she sees it as the state's duty to regulate midwives appropriately - not by prosecuting those who have no path to get a license, but by accepting a nationally recognized standard for home-birth midwifery care.

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