Tragic Home Birth Leads To Midwife Licensing Debate

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After the tragic loss of her first-born child, Margarita Sheikh is pushing for her state to regulate and license midwives, but also for other pregnant women to reconsider having their children at home.

No woman should have to endure the pain and suffering that Sheikh went through when two unlicensed midwives kept her home and cut off from friends and family through eight days of labor. Eight days! After all that, her son only lived for a few minutes after he was born.

Sheikh was drawn to home birth with midwives after her first couple appointments with a traditional OB-GYN. The quick, informal meetings made the first-time mom feel uneasy. So instead, she decided to have two midwives help her through her pregnancy and labor. Looking back on her experience, the mother says, “In my head I was trying to do the best for my son. I really did think that was the best way to bring him into this world. I just regret not asking for help outside of the midwives.”

Margarita’s tragedy is causing politicians in Oregon to reconsider their licensing laws for midwives. Right now, they are one of only two states where midwives have a voluntary licensing program. State Representative Mitch Greenlick is looking to change that. “I think we ought to make sure that just as when we’re dealing with chiropractors, or naturopaths, or physicians or acupuncturists, we’re making sure that the people who are practicing this health profession are doing it to the highest standards they possibly can. And if they’re not licensed, we don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. However, a representative from the Oregon Midwifery Council believes that the current voluntary system is working and that the majority of planned home births are performed by licensed midwives.

Margarita Sheikh’s story is a heart-wrenching one. She said that by the end of her agonizing labor, she knew that she needed to call 911, but was too mentally and physically exhausted to follow through.

I think that the most important lesson to be learned is that giving birth is a still dangerous. If you choose to have a home birth, you need to research the midwives and doulas that you’re working with. You need to discuss a plan for emergencies. If a home birth is an important part of your birthing plan, you need to be pro-active in making sure that you and your baby will be taken care of.

This story brings tears to my eyes. And it proves that more information needs to be available for women who are trying to decide the best plan for their family.