Special Delivery

Nurse midwives can mean fewer unnecessary procedures, study says!


WASHINGTON- Using certified nursing midwives instead of traditional childbirth methods may help improve the nation’s infant mortality rate and help patients avoid expensive and unnecessary medical procedures, according to a study released Monday.

Public Citizen’s Health Research Group surveyed 419 hospital-based certified nurse midwives-licensed registered nurses who have completed a graduate-level program for midwifery and 39 birthing centers.

The study found that mothers of all backgrounds who used midwives were more likely to receive good prenatal care, nutritional counseling and continuity of care.  Such mothers are less likely to produce babies with low birth weights, a condition closely tied to infant mortality.

“The health status of newborns in this country is a perfect symbol of what’s wrong with our healthcare delivery system,” said Mary Gabay, head researcher for the study.  Gabay pointed out that the U.S. global rank in infant mortality has steadily worsened, moving from 12th in 1962 to 22nd in 1992.

“In many countries with rates that top ours, midwives are the critical link in providing much of the prenatal and labor and delivery care,” Gabay said.

In the United States, midwives were the principal attendant at 4.4% of births in 1992.  In Western European countries, which generally have lower infant mortality rates than the United States, midwives are the principal attendant at 75% of births.

The report also said that midwives are less likely than hospitals to use relatively dangerous and costly childbirth procedures, such as cesarean sections.

When midwives are involved in delivery, the rate of cesarean is 11.6%.  The overall national rate for cesarean is 23.3% and it is more than 30% in the South.

The study also criticized hospitals for using a medical model of care for all patients, regardless of their health status.

Healing Journeys Book Cover