Central Delaware
State’s midwives eye law to permit legal deliveries

DOVER — Midwives in Delaware are striving to create legislation allowing them to legally perform out-of-hospital deliveries for all expectant mothers wanting one.

The Direct Entry Non-Nurse Midwifery Subcommittee on Policy and Regulation — a group of 14 doctors, midwives, hospital staff and midwifery advocates — met on Thursday night in Dover to discuss some of the most important issues that need to be ironed out and agreed upon before any draft legislation can be made.

Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, the lone legislator on the subcommittee, will spearhead the legislation with hopes to have it completed by June 30.

“We know we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Jen Atonik, mother and midwifery advocate, as the subcommittee flipped through pages and pages of other states’ midwifery laws.

The subcommittee has studied regulations in other states such as Colorado, Utah and Wisconsin to pick and choose the aspects of each that would work in Delaware.

The necessary accreditation and qualifications of midwives in the state will be laid out according to the standards set by the North American Registry of Midwives.

The Registry requires Certified Professional Midwives to undergo training, education, supervised clinical experience and a written test.

In order for a midwife to use prescription medication of any kind for delivery or post-delivery, midwives must undergo a separate process through the medical board to obtain a license.

In previous efforts to regulate midwifery in Delaware, a main component was a collaborative agreement — a formal agreement between a midwife and an obstetrician to assure the obstetrician’s services or consultation are available if necessary before or during delivery.

There is currently only one collaborative agreement in the state, and the subcommittee has determined that no medical practices or hospitals are willing to enter into any more collaborative agreements, mainly due to liability.

“When the outcome isn’t ideal, anyone who was involved gets pulled in like a black hole. The problem isn’t getting better; it’s only getting worse,” said subcommittee member Dr. Richard Henderson, an OB/GYN and Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Bonnie Perrato, chief nursing officer at Bayhealth, the second-largest birth facility in Delaware, shared Dr. Henderson’s sentiments.

“The minute a patient enters the hospital, they are in care of the hospital and the hospital is liable for anything that happens,” she said.

“It always goes back to who’s liable,” said Jephtha VanDunk, a Maryland attorney. “It’s sad that the focus isn’t where it should be and we aren’t going to end the litigious nature of society.”

Without the collaborative agreement, Kathleen McCarthy of the Birth Center of Delaware in Wilmington said that she and her 27 employees have a very strong rapport with the staff at Christiana Hospital.

“We train at Christiana and we get our faces seen. We can go into the hospital and we aren’t treated as support; we are treated as professionals so communication like this can work,” she said.

Dr. Garrett Colmorgen, perinatologist at Bayhealth, said without the collaborative agreement, communication still remains key to give women the proper care, so, some sort of informal agreement must be reached.

Although there are women who wish to have a home birth before new legislation can be approved, a temporary legislative or regulatory fix is not an option.

These women will either give birth at home, legally unattended, or illegally, with a midwife.

Rep. Baumbach explained that, due to the lengthy legislative process, creating temporary regulations would take just as long as completing the final product.

All 14 members of the subcommittee decided to participate in the drafting process. They expect to have a solid outline in which all members have agreed or at least compromised on in time for the next public meeting.

The subcommittee plans to meet next at 6 p.m. on March 11 at the Delaware Division of Public Health offices in the Edgehill Shopping Center, 43 S. Dupont Hwy. in Dover. The meeting is open to the public.

Staff writer Ashton Brown can be reached at or 741-8272. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.