Births attended by midwives, especially those not regulated by the state, are increasing in Oklahoma, state Health Department records show.
In 2007, 2,127 births in Oklahoma were attended by midwives, a 10 percent increase since 2004.
Certified nurse midwives accounted for 85 percent of the midwifery births in the state in 2007. Certified nurse midwives are registered nurses who have completed a nurse midwifery program accredited by the American College of Nurse Midwives Division of Accreditation and are regulated by the state of Oklahoma.
But births outside of a hospital attended by other, non-state regulated midwives, increased 54 percent from 2004 to 2007, records show.
The increase comes as some in the medical community are voicing concerns about out-of-hospital births.
"In obstetrics, if everything goes well, it’s not a hard job, but you spend your life training and practicing for the emergencies,” said Dr. Gena Gray, with Tulsa OB-GYN Associates in Tulsa.
Gray said there have been at least Tulsa two cases in the past year where women with high risk deliveries attempted home births, but ended up at a hospital when complications developed.
"My concern is somebody delivering at home or at a birthing center doesn’t have adequate medical care if something goes wrong,” Gray said.
But others say midwifery is safe and Oklahoma midwifery births’ growth is not unique.
"I think it’s a trend across the country,” said Susan Moray, with the Midwives Alliance of North America, referring to an increase in out-of-hospital births attended by midwives.
She credits a 2008 documentary produced by Ricki Lake, "The Business of Being Born,” with igniting interest in out-of-hospital births.
"I think also women are educating themselves and seeing the likelihood of a Caesarean if they go in to the hospital because the Caesarean rate is going up nationally,” Moray said.
Caesarean sections are increasing.
Caesarean section births increased from 22 percent to 34 percent nationally, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Oklahoma, one in three births in 2007 were by Caesarean section.
To avoid Caesarean sections, women look at other options and "out-of-hospital births is the main option,” Moray said.
Meanwhile, as Caesarean sections have increased, the number of women with prior C-sections who subsequently delivered vaginally had been decreasing in Oklahoma, largely due to restrictions imposed by insurance companies.