North Carolina Limits Certified Nurse Midwives

I am not aware of every single detail in regards to this story. I am writing about what I know.

Yesterday I learned that the North Carolina Board of Medicine decided to limit women’s rights by telling Dr. Henry Dorn, obstetrician and homebirth supporter, that he could no longer provide back-up support to certified nurse-midwives who attend homebirths.

Certified nurse-midwives enjoy legal freedom in all 50 states. They are uniquely qualified to provide well-woman care, prenatal and postpartum care, and catch babies. Unlike certified professional midwives, few people debate the qualifications of certified nurse-midwives when it comes to birth. In fact, some people think that certified nurse-midwives are a little too akin to obstetricians when it comes to birth; they are often referred to as “medwives.”

Three or four times during my pregnancy with Cousin It (2010) I saw an obstetrician who practiced with a certified nurse midwife — and who supported my decision to homebirth.

Certified nurse midwives practice under supervision by a doctor; until yesterday, Dr. Henry Dorn supported many of them in North Carolina.

I do not know the incident that preceded this decree. I do not know exactly how many certified nurse-midwives Dr. Henry Dorn was able to support until yesterday, although I know the number is at least five, possibly more. Dr. Dorn’s reach is far and wide across North Carolina. Now these midwives are unable to legally attend homebirths. They are out of jobs. Women seeking legal homebirths have limited — if any — options.

I guess if they live near High Point North Carolina, they can have a homebirth with Dr. Dorn himself. If they live near High Point. If he has room in his practice. If, if, if…

And so women’s rights have been limited, yet again. For those who were planning a homebirth with a certified nurse-midwife under supervision by Dr. Dorn, their options are severely limited: hospital birth, or homebirth with a not-legally-recognized midwife, or unassisted (not attended by any type of healthcare provider) homebirth.

Presumably the North Carolina Board of Medicine wants to force women into hospitals that they deem safer. Yet this is a fallacy. I have had two homebirths and if I’d been told that I couldn’t have a homebirth, I would have had one anyway. Probably under less desirable, less safe circumstances. I would not have gone to the hospital to have a baby.

(41w+ pregnant with Cousin It, in 2010.) Cake or homebirth? I’LL TAKE HOMEBIRTH.

This is the apex of partisan politics: homebirth supporters versus non-homebirth (default: hospital) supporters. Both with lines drawn in the sand. Both refusing to back down. The non- homebirth supporters are bigger and stronger and can make the rules. The homebirth supporters can protest and refuse and fight.

Pregnant women are the ones who lose. Families are the ones who lose, when birth options are taken away and homebirth becomes less transparent. I’d argue this only makes homebirth less safe. I’d argue that hospitals are not going to be filled with those former planned-homebirthers, happily rushing to the maternity wards.

I would NEVER have chosen a hospital birth over this (yes, I gave birth on the toilet. Intentionally.)

I’m shocked because until now, the debate has always been whether or not certified professional midwives were qualified “enough” to attend homebirths safely. The debate was not if certified nurse midwives could attend homebirths. Now there is almost no debate. Hospital birth — or else!

I cannot even imagine what the “or else” is, but I bet we’ll find out soon.



13 Responses

  1. Great blog! If people want to effect change they can contact their Rep and Sen and ask them to make sure H522/S662 is heard during the short session. This bill will provide a pathway for CPMs and CNMs to attend births at home and will take the NCBM out of it! has links and will post updated information.

  2. I feel for women in your state~what a difficult setback! Did you see The Human Rights in Childbirth convention that is happening in The Hague this week? Very interesting, and inspired by the Hungarian midwife who was arrested (and convicted) for attending home births. This is my favorite quote from the conference: “If a woman has the right to decide whether or not to give birth, she has the right to decide where she will give birth, and who will be present.” The European Human Rights tribunal ruled that Hungary is violating human rights by barring home birth and by imprisoning midwife Agnes Gereb.

  3. Please go to our FB page, Carrboro Midwifery, and send our posts to EVERYONE you know. Thanks for your support and the exposure you are giving this very important issue!!! Best, Deb O’Connell CNM

    • Absolutely, Deb! I’m working on a follow up post with info on how to help and who to call or email. I’m heading to your Fb page right now to read and share.

  4. Leigh, Thanks for posting a wonderful bog on this. I am follower of your page and have shared this on my timeline!

  5. Welcome to government run healthcare!

    You’re obviously not intelligent enough to make such choices for yourself, so the government has made the choice for you.

    The government gained this power slowly over time by voters who decided to elect and support representatives who limit others rights. Be it smoking, motorcycle helmets, school lockdowns, or any other “it’s for the good of “, eventually they’ll come for you.

    By the way, I do not support government intrusion on your right to homebirth. I actually think it’s a wonderful idea. Keep fighting for your right to choose how and where you want to bring that beautiful life into this world.

  6. Thank you for this post. I am one of the many women effected by this decision. I have just moved down from PA and know very few people. I had a homebirth set up with Carrboro Midwifery. I was comfortable with my decision for a homebirth and am now left with nothing really. All other alternatives to a hospital are pretty much taken and I am left 24weeks and freaking out (cause that’s soooo good for my health and the babies) I still have no clue what to do other than try to back up these midwives that are fighting not just for there job but for our right to give birth where we want with whom we want and how we want. My heart goes out to all the women that are due this month and next.

  7. Did you ever post the update with info & who to contact?

    I’m living in Greenville, NC and plan to start trying at the beginning of the year. I really want to have a home birth (as I was home birthed back in 1985). What are my options? And how do I find a CNM who legally can attend home births for my area?

    This is just so frustrating!

    • Melanie, thanks for the comment — I will do some research on what is currently happening with CNMs and get back to you. I’m not sure ANY CNMs in NC are legally attending homebirths right now.

      As far as what to do, you have a few options: travel out of state and “home” birth somewhere in SC or VA, where it’s legal for a CPM to attend you; go to a birth center attended by CNMs; or have a homebirth with a non-legal midwife. Those choices all suck when what you really want is a homebirth with a CNM.

      • HI, there, I am one of the CNMs affected by not being able to locate a supervising OB. Actually, there is a homebirhting CNM over near Greenville, NC who was able to locate a supervising OB & her name is lOlivia Marshburn. She lives about 40 min. north of Wilmington, which puts her very close to Greenville, NC. You can find her by googling her name & she has a facebook page. Her phone number is 910-200-8389. Please tell her that Karen Benfield, CNM of BirthTender referred you to her. She is a great midwife, been doing birhtings for a really long time.
        Regards & Blessgins, Kafren Benfield, CNM, MSN
        I am also a CNM licensed in TN, I began the process of also acquiring my license in Tn way back in April, as i used to attend births in TN, too, way back before they defined & legalized CPMs there, too.

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