Midwifery Study Finds Encouraging Data for Home Births

Midwifery student with baby

Home births can yield low intervention rates without increasing problems for mothers and babies, according to a significant new U.S. midwifery study co-authored by a Bastyr University faculty member.

The study gathered data from more than 16,000 births attended by midwives. For women with low-risk pregnancies who were planning a home birth with a midwife, it found a 5.2 percent cesarean section rate, compared with the U.S. average of 31 percent for full-term pregnancies. The study is part of a decade-long project to help families and policymakers alike better understand birth care.

"Hospital maternity care tends to have a lot of intervention and technology in the labor process, so we don't have a lot of good data on what happens in births that unfold more naturally," says co-author Wendy Gordon, CPM, LM, MPH, a core faculty member in Bastyr's Department of Midwifery. "This project helps correct that."

The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. Midwives throughout the country supplied data through the professional group Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), reporting on births they attended from 2004-2009. The next round of analysis is already under way, with more than 900 midwives reporting on more than 1,000 births each month, Gordon says.

MANA hopes to influence a health care system that lags behind much of the developed world in birth outcomes, including cesarean rates, pre-term birth rates and mortality.

"Other countries do a better job integrating midwives into the health care system," says Gordon. "We want lawmakers and hospital leaders to know about this data."

A statement by Geradine Simkins, CNM, MSN, executive director of MANA, underscores the need to reconsider conventional approaches to birth: "When we consider the well-known health consequences of a cesarean — not to mention the exponentially higher costs — this study brings a fresh reminder of the benefits of midwife-led care outside of our overburdened hospital system."

Gordon said she was not surprised by the "amazingly" low cesarean rate or the rate of women with planned home-births who choose to transfer to hospitals (about 11 percent, usually for pain relief). Some of the outcomes for breech-position births were less encouraging (such as higher mortality rates), and Gordon says these findings, too, can help practitioners and expectant mothers make decisions.

"We have to talk about what these results mean in our profession," she says. "The goal isn't to claim that everything midwives do is perfect. If you're a mother who is carrying twins or has a baby in a breech position that doesn't want to move, this information can be helpful in considering the risks of various options."

Gordon has contributed to the MANA Stats Project since she began attending births 10 years ago. She has served on MANA's Division of Research developing reporting protocols and participating in quality assurance, calling midwives to ensure their medical records match the data they reported. (The study included both direct-entry midwives and nurse-midwives, in states with and without professional licensure for midwives.)

"I've been contributing data since I was a student, and I still contribute data from my practice," she says. "I believe in this project."


Learn more about studying midwifery at Bastyr.



Portraits of the mission

Bastyr University Continues Tradition with Annual Founders’ Awards Dinner

Bastyr University will continue the tradition of honoring alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends who have distinguished themselves through outstanding professional and personal achievement as well as loyal service to the University and the field of natural health science with its 2016 Founders’ Awards Fundraising Dinner.
Bastyr faculty Ali Tromblay, LM, CPM, right, holds her Seattle Women's Pride award flanked by Jennifer Jimenez, CNM.

Seattle Women’s Pride Awards Midwifery Faculty

The third annual LGBT event honors Bastyr University's Ali Tromblay, LM, CPM, with the Community Champion Award for dedicating her life to supporting women’s health and equal access to care.

Students Showcase 45 Exhibits at Research Symposium

Scientific research is one of the cornerstones of Bastyr University, as proved by this year’s record-breaking 45 exhibits at the annual Student Research Symposium.
Bastyr Kenmore's 2016 graduation ceremony at Benaroya Hall

Bastyr Graduating Nearly 400 Students in June 2016

Bastyr University California in San Diego and Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, are sending nearly 400 graduates into the world at their respective commencement ceremonies June 19 and 20, 2016.

In the Media

Natural Benefits of Eucalyptus

September 8Natural Benefits of Eucalyptus:

Jenn Dazey, ND discusses the natural benefits of eucalyptus on page 24 of the April 2020 edition of Prevention Magazine.

Pacific County Program Manager

March 5Health Department Expands Services, brings new People Aboard:

Stephanie Michael, a registered dietician nutritionist, was hired as the county’s Health Services Program manager, and is on the front lines of the COVID-19 response in Pacific County

February 27Seattle Based Organization Expands Awareness About Naturopathic Medicine: Welcomes Dr. Joe Pizzorno To Board Of Directors:

The Institute of Natural Medicine announces that Dr. Joe Pizzorno has joined their Board of Directors