Local family sparks conversation on classifications of midwives, licensing call to action

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A recent tragedy in McDuffie County drew attention to the issue of midwifery. We took a deeper look into the different classifications of midwives. Specifically, we wanted to know about their training and licensing in the state of Georgia.

Two bills currently in the Georgia legislature, HB 717 and SB 267, deal with licensing midwives.

Nationally, it’s a topic being discussed after a local family blamed a Certified Professional Midwife for the loss of their child during birth.

“I don’t want this to happen to any other mom under any midwife’s care,” said Ashlyn Cruz, whose daughter was stillborn.

We heard the chilling story of Ashlyn and Gabriel Cruz last month in the loss of their baby Asa Joy. The McDuffie County couple told NewsChannel 6 a midwife neglected to locate their baby’s heartbeat along with multiple other claims that ultimately led to the Cruz family’s first daughter being stillborn.

Georgia Board of Nursing launched an investigation.

The Cruz family told us their research led them to a Certified Professional Midwife, a group currently unlicensed in Georgia.

CPMs are licensed in 33 states, including states surrounding Georgia such as Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists issued a statement in 2016 supporting the US MERA bridge certificate, a method used to train CPMs.

“We just need to look at what will improve quality care from all midwives from all different backgrounds of training,” said Corrinna Edwards, a CPM in Georgia.

The Georgia Licensed Midwife Act, a bill currently in the House, would license and regulate CPMs. It’s a move the Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition said is needed. “Unlicensed midwives can face serious legal consequences, especially if there is a bad outcome. Families, likewise, have little recourse when there is a bad outcome with an unlicensed midwife. Licensure establishes uniform standards, ensures midwives are governed by their peers, and protects both families and midwives. It also integrates midwives into systems of care–something several studies have linked to better patient outcomes,” Georgia Birth Advocacy President Zawn Villines said.

Edwards added, “We’re looking at trying to advance midwifery and advance home births so that people do understand that birth is a normal, physiological process and if everything is normal, you can’t fix it.”

Dr. Chadburn Ray, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Augusta University spoke about nurse midwives. He said, “A Certified Nurse Midwife has a high level of training and education, including a bachelor’s degree and generally they’re a registered nurse.”

Certified Nurse Midwives are licensed in the the Peach State. Augusta University’s Dr. Chadburn Ray added they also complete a midwifery program and take an exam too. He encourages people to do their research to make sure they are good candidates for home birth. He said that criteria is typically low risk women without twins, breech babies or a prior cesarean.

Dr. Ray said, “You can have an obstetrician-gynecologist who is very junior in their career that will process things differently than they will after ten years and thousands of deliveries. That’s no different than a Certified Professional Midwife and a Certified Nurse Midwife either.”

Neither bill has pass the Georgia House or Senate.

The Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition also wrote an article about the need for licensed midwives. Click here to read it.

The conversation around community midwives, something SB 267 addresses, is something Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition said surround women of color. Villines said community midwives have been shown to reduce racial disparities in maternal health. Read more about Georgia’s maternal mortality crisis from the coalition here.

The National Association of Professional Midwives Georgia Chapter President Paige White also shared information with NewsChannel 6. You can learn more about CPMs from that organization here, including CPM training and a comparison of CNM vs CPM training.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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