Local midwife stops practice

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 3/24/98.

There are about 30 practicing traditional, lay, or direct entry midwives serving all of Minnesota. Laura Erickson, Blomkest, a certified professional midwife from Texas, has practiced in a large rural area (60-mile radius from Blomkest), which includes Paynesville, for the past 13 years. She has delivered more than 500 babies as home births.

Erickson decided in November the risk had become too great to continue her own practice at this time. Ill take a break until the climate is safer, she said.

At least two other midwives in the state have suspended their practices as well. When Erickson announced she would no longer be able to attend to families choosing birth at home, 30 families were immediately affected and forced to look for a new care provider for their upcoming births, and another 20 have been turned away since then.

Laura Thompson, birth assistant from Paynesville, said The lack of a qualified midwife to attend home births in our area is proving to be a major problem for families who are having repeat pregnancies, as well as for first time parents choosing to have a home birth.

Dr. Allan Solum, Paynesville, has served as a backup doctor for Erickson in the past. Midwives have been sought out by various pregnant women in the past as they provide a different type of service, sometimes in a home environment rather than the traditional clinic/ hospital environment, Dr. Solum said.

I feel doctors are open-minded about midwives but they are also looking out for the best interest of the patient. A doctors care is more directed toward the outcome, and includes prenatal care and assessment of fetal development, and the well being of both mother and baby. There is room for the two to work together, Dr. Solum said.

Most doctors would like to be part of the whole process (pregnancy) instead of being called in at the 11th hour in an emergency on an unfamiliar patient. There have been tremendous advances in technology for monitoring labor and the well being of the mother and baby, he added.

It shouldnt be we (doctors) versus midwives, but all of us working together, Dr. Solum added. I wouldnt be opposed to a birth assistant in the delivery room.

Women need to be aware of the risks of home delivery. Among the risks are immediate respiratory distress which a midwife is not geared to handle; midwives do not have the availability of supplemental oxygen and are not equipped to handle excess bleeding if there are tears or a placental separation, Dr. Solum said.

Dr. Tom Sult, Paynesville, feels people ought to have a right to choose. The major problem in this country is the government keeps intruding on peoples personal lives. The government should not be in the business of making decisions for all situations. People should be able to make their own choices. We live in a free republic and individuals have a right to choose the type of birth they desire without the government stepping in.

In medicine today, many doctors have created an illness out of pregnancy, he said. When people are properly informed, they should have the right to choose the method of birth they desire.

A well-trained midwife can appropriately care for low risk pregnancies and deliver a baby at home. I havent any problems with the idea of serving as a backup doctor in such cases. However, there is the safety issue to contend with, Dr. Sult said.

In the hospitals, nurses are trained to monitor the progress of labor and will call me when it is time to deliver the baby, Dr. Sult said.

Dr. Sult added, The vast majority of the time, home deliveries are safe in a low risk pregnancy. However, families need to be fully aware of the risks involved. In many births, unforeseen complications arise that can not be predicted ahead of time, sometimes resulting in bad outcomes for baby, mom, or both.

Related stories:
Risks for midwifery increasing in Minnesota
Area family wanted second home delivery

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