Reps. Roybal-Allard and Herrera Beutler Introduce Midwives for MOMS Act
Today, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), the Co-Founders and Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care, introduced the Midwives for Maximizing Optimal Maternity Services Act. The Midwives for MOMS Act will address the growing maternity care provider shortage by establishing two new funding streams for midwifery education. In addition, the bill will address the significant lack of diversity in the maternity care workforce by focusing resources on students from minority or disadvantaged communities.
“America’s mothers and babies deserve the best possible care, and midwives are essential to providing them with that excellent care,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “That is why I am so proud of our bipartisan Midwives for MOMS Act, which will expand educational opportunities for midwives. If we can expand mothers’ access to midwives’ evidence-based, holistic, and woman-centered care, we will improve maternity care outcomes for mothers and babies, and reduce maternity care costs for America’s families and for our state and local governments.”
“America’s maternity care is at a crisis level with high rates of maternal and infant mortality, preterm births, and a staggering lack of prenatal care for moms,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler. “We must prioritize quality care for moms and babies in this country no matter where they live or their economic status. Midwives play a critical role in giving many moms access to high-quality maternity care. As parents and leaders in Congress, let’s rally around this legislative solution to increase the number of qualified midwives and improve health outcomes for moms and babies.”
“Increased federal funding for accredited midwifery education programs is crucial to growing and improving racial and ethnic representation within our nation’s maternity care workforce,” said Susan Stone, CNM, DNSc, FACNM, FAAN, President of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). “This legislation takes important steps to help alleviate significant pressures communities and health systems are experiencing due to the shortage of trained maternal and women’s healthcare providers in high-need rural and urban areas. By improving access to full-scope midwifery care provided by nationally certified midwives we will be able to better address the significant disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes found in far too many of our communities.”
“Far too many women having babies in the United States today suffer severe complications of pregnancy and birth, including the highest rates of mortality and morbidity among high resource nations,” said Mary Lawlor, CPM, LM, MA, Executive Director of the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives. “It is unacceptable in this wealthiest of countries that black and native American mothers are dying at 3 to 4 times the rate of white women. NACPM applauds Congresswomen Roybal-Allard and Herrera Beutler for their leadership in funding midwifery education to mitigate the severe shortage of providers, contain healthcare costs, and most importantly, to improve the health and save the lives of childbearing women and their babies in our country.”
“The Midwives for MOMS Act will provide much needed funding for midwifery education,” said Kate Bauer, MBA, Executive Director of the American Association of Birth Centers. “The Strong Start Initiative for Mothers & Newborns demonstrated the significant impact the midwifery model of care has on improving maternal and infant health outcomes for our vulnerable populations. Only with a growing and diverse midwifery workforce can we adequately address maternal health disparities and the mounting maternity provider shortage.”
The U.S. spends significantly more per capita on childbirth than any other industrialized nation, with costs estimated at well over $50 billion per year. However, despite this investment, America continues to rank far behind almost all other developed countries in positive birth outcomes for both mothers and babies, including unacceptably high rates of maternal and infant mortality, preterm births, and severe complications of pregnancy that have adverse effects on women’s health. Communities of color disproportionately experience these tragedies.
The statistics become more dire given that the United States is facing a growing shortage of trained maternity care providers to care for the approximately four million women who give birth in this country each year. Currently, more than five million women in the US live in counties where there is limited or no access to maternity health care services, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists projects a shortage of up to 8,800 OB-GYNs by 2020, with the shortfall approaching 22,000 by 2050. Furthermore, over 50 percent of counties across the country do not have a single nurse-midwife or certified midwife. This means that the numbers of babies born to women who do not receive adequate prenatal care will continue to grow, putting them at increased risk for premature birth, stillbirth and early neonatal death. Midwives are widely cited as being an important part of the solution to addressing these problems in our maternity care system.
For decades, research has shown that midwifery is associated with positive birth outcomes that are at least comparable to care provided by OB-GYNs. Midwifery also reduces maternity care costs because of lower cesarean birth rates with midwife care, as well as lower rates of labor induction and augmentation, and lower use of regional anesthesia.
In the United States, midwives currently attend less than 10 percent of all births. This is in stark contrast to countries like Great Britain, where midwives deliver half of all babies, or Sweden, Norway and France, where midwives oversee the majority of expectant and new mothers. All of these countries have much lower rates of maternal and infant mortality than the U.S.
The Midwives for MOMS Act will allow the U.S. to train more midwives by establishing two grant programs for midwifery education: one in the Title VII Health Professions Training Programs, and one in the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs. These programs will simultaneously address the significant lack of diversity in the maternity care workforce by prioritizing midwifery programs that demonstrate a focus on increasing racial and ethnic minority representation, and by targeting students who plan to practice in an area with a shortage of health professionals.
Increasing access to midwifery care is a critical step for achieving better birth outcomes, lowering health care costs, and helping to avoid a maternity care shortage that this country simply cannot afford.