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Advocates Want Midwife Licensure

VINTON, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- There are 28 states in America that have a regulated licensing process for midwives who want to perform at-home births -- but Iowa is not one of them.

Women across the state are looking to the legislature this session to make that happen, with bills in both the House and Senate to create midwife license.

Right now, if a woman wants to hire a midwife to deliver her baby at home or in a birthing center, it is technically illegal. Midwives can face felony charges for performing those births, but they are performing them anyway.

Despite that, making the choice to hire a midwife was easy for Bethany Gates. After having her first daughter, Liana, in a hospital, she wanted to give birth to her second, Arianna, at home.

"I was just so happy. It was the birth that I wanted. I knew that it was what was best for me and my baby, and it's nice to have that reaffirmed," Gates said.

That is why Gates is now training to become a midwife herself, and why she wants to see Iowa pass legislation to create a certified professional midwife license. Without a professional licensing program, midwives go unregulated -- but still perform home births.

"Home birth is not only growing (in popularity), but growing at an exponential rate. And the lack of access to midwives that can serve you at home is a big problem," said Megan Day Suhr, lobbyist for the advocacy group Friends of Iowa Midwives.

Day Suhr said she gets calls every week from women looking for professionals to perform their home births -- because the practice of a midwife delivering a baby at a home is technically illegal, woman have to go through Associations like Friends of Iowa Midwives to find help. But if midwives were licensed and regulated, that process would be much safer, Day Suhr said.

"Because people are wondering: are these midwives even trained or do they just show up at the house and start catching babies? But no, to become a Certified Professional Midwife, it does take several years," Gates said.

Without a state license, however, those credentials are impossible to track. Still, that's not keeping women from having home births, and that's why people like Gates and Day Suhr want those bills to pass.

"Birth is natural and normal and it just felt right to do it at home," Gates said.

There are studies on both sides of the issue that say midwifery increases and decreases the safety of labor. Regardless, there are about 500 women in Iowa who choose to have a home  birth with a midwife every year.

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