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Home birth and the regulation of midwives: MI law and professional negligence, P.1

Childbirth is an experience most women anticipate with a mixture of thoughts and emotions, including fear about something going wrong. For women in high-risk pregnancies, this fear can be heightened because of the complications that could arise. While most women choose to deliver in hospitals, some choose to do so at home.

The number of women who choose to deliver at home is very small. Whatever reason women may have for choosing home birth, they should be aware not only of the risks involved, but also the factors that contribute to those risks. As a recent New York Times op-ed points out, one significant factor contributing to the risk of home birth is the quality of care provided by the midwife. 

Quality of care, of course, is important in any medical setting, but especially in home birth situations. A midwife must understand the birth process enough to know how it progresses under the range of ordinary circumstances as well as how to identify circumstances which complicate the delivery and make it necessary to involve a specialist. Childbirth is relatively straightforward when there are no complications, but it can be life-threatening when exigent circumstances arise.

Important to understand for couples interesting in home birth is that midwives are not all created equal. Just because an individual holds him- or herself out as a midwife doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is competent for the job. What makes the matter even more difficult to sort out is that different states have different laws regarding the licensing and regulation of midwives.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this issue and the importance of working with an experienced attorney when something goes wrong with a home birth.

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