Supporters of home births are trying to convince legislators to create a pilot program that could eventually lead to the licensing of midwives without nursing degrees.
The three-year pilot would allow certified professional midwives to deliver babies in a home setting without worry of arrest or prosecution. Certified professional midwives are trained in midwifery and meet standards set by the North American Registry of Midwives.
Under the pilot progam, midwives would share their birth outcomes with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The pilot would allow time for the state to figure out the best way to structure a legal midwifery licensing or certification program and look at what other states do, said Del. Ariana Kelly, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the legislation to create the pilot.
Maryland is one of 11 states where non-nurse midwives are illegal. Twenty-six states regulate them in some way and 13 are silent on the matter, which essentially lets midwives practice.
"This pilot would move Maryland from the illegal tier to the legal one long enough for DHMH to work with stakeholders to devise the best plan for regulation," Kelly said.
The issue of certifying midwives without a nursing degree has met resistance from state health officials and doctors who call the practice dangerous and say people who deliver babies need extensive medical backgrounds.
They say midwives often aren't equipped to handle complications that occur during a home birth.
DHMH issued a joint statement last year reaffirming its belief. The state's nursing board, the association that represents county health officials and the Maryland affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives also signed the statement.
Home births represent 1 percent of all the nation's deliveries, but more women are choosing the option. Maryland home births increased 62.5 percent from 2004 to 2009. Birth certificate data from local health departments also seems to show more parents may be turning to home births. An increasing number of parents who ask for birth certificates are telling officials nobody aided them in their birth.
A hearing on the pilot is scheduled for Mar. 5.