Doctor-midwife tensions run deep

This morning, Joe Rojas-Burke of The Oregonian released an article titled Doctor-midwife tensions run deep. He summarized the recent class action lawsuit to “cease intimidation and threats against midwives” between Oregon midwives and Oregon Health & Science University.

Midwives say doctors and nurses at OHSU have filed baseless complaints to the licensing agency meant to thwart competition. Officials with the state agency and OHSU declined to comment on the allegations. The threatened lawsuit spurred a passionate online debate among supporters and critics of home birth.

I am delivering our baby at Andaluz Waterbirth Center, one of the leadering midwife groups, in the lawsuit and feel honored to be associated with a group of such capable midwives. The care I have received over the last 7 months of my pregnancy has been impecable. They are concerned about
my well-being as a mother, I am not just a patient or “pregnant cow No. 45”. They know my husband by name, they are aware of our living and job situations, they know our plans to cloth diaper and end each appointment with a hug and well wishes until we meet again. I have their cell phone numbers in case I ever have concerns between appointments.

Pregnancy is much more than a physical condition. It is emotional and spiritual as well. My Andaluz midwives have cared for every aspect of my life as I transition into motherhood. To me, their expertise in birthing medicine is just a bonus. They have prepared me to make an educated decision about my and my baby’s health. I feel protected within their care and know that in case of emergency they are equipped to step in. I trust them to do that. Especially since they have placed such value on our relationship. I’m not just another patient. My husband and I are people to them and they are aware of this important milestone we are about to embark on. They have become partners in our journey towards parenthood and for that I am grateful.

In response to Rojas-Burke’s article, Jennifer Gallardo, CPM, LDM who is the Director of Andaluz wrote:

Joe, your article clarified a lot of questions people have about midwives in Oregon. A few things I’d like to point out:

  1. The class action lawsuit is being filed not only by Andaluz Waterbirth Center clients and midwives, but by many other midwives and clients in Oregon, including those from the Alma Midwifery Birth Center and other private practices.
  2. I agree that conflicts aren’t inevitable. Midwives in the Portland area, including those filing the lawsuit, transfer and refer clients that become high risk and out of their scope of practice to other hospitals and doctors. A Portland hospital has warmly received midwives transports and has even met with Portland midwives to discuss working with them to make transport situations smoother. They have agreed that if there is concern from either party regarding a transport we can case review the transport to learn from each other, rather then filing complaints. This model improves future transports and relationships.
  3. Portland midwives have for years requested from OHSU being able to case review transport situations in an attempt to better future transports, to no avail. Unlike other hospitals, OHSU has rejected these offers.
  4. We have evidence that the 6 complaints filed regarding Andaluz Waterbirth Center midwives were a direct target against our practice, which does more births than any free-standing birth center in Oregon and sits at the foot of OHSU. We also have evidence that OHSU has threatened to “shut down” Andaluz Waterbirth Center.
  5. The studies that include home breech births include surprise breech births with a midwife. These most likely have poorer outcomes than planned breech home births with a midwife experienced in breech birth.
  6. This class action lawsuit is to protect the constitutional right that mothers have to choose where and with whom they want to birth their babies.

I completely understand a birth center or homebirth isn’t for everyone, but if your condition allows I would highly encourage exploring this option. It has been a huge blessing to our family and I can’t imagine going through pregnancy without my midwive’s support.

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  1. says

    I think it's so sad that people feel so threatened by the midwives & new natural options for childbirth. It really bothers me that it has become such a medicalized, controlled thing. Shouldn't a woman be free to choose what makes her most comfortable when it comes to birth decisions? I feel very blessed to have been a part of a nurse-midwife group at my local hospital. I don't believe there are any birthing centers anywhere near me. I feel like I got the best of both worlds, though, because my nurse-midwife used a method called Centering in place of regular prenatal visits. We were grouped with 5 other couples who were all due within the same 4 week period as us. All our visits were prenatal/childbirth/pregnancy classes & were really fun & informational. It was great because I had other pregnant women with me, my husband could chat with the other husbands/partners & we all got to spend about 2 hours per visit with our midwife's full attention! She also delivered all of our babies, regardless of whether or not she was on call at the time. It is so important to be comfortable with where you are delivering your baby. I'm so happy that you are confident in your choice & so disappointed that they have to go to such means to just be recognized as a legitimate & beneficial place to deliver babies.

  2. says

    I love the idea of Centering … that sounds awesome!For how progressive the Northwest tends to be it is very interesting to be involved in the current dr/midwife struggle. I'm thrilled with my choice and am looking forward to the experience of birth that is just a few weeks away!Thanks for your support, Cameron … it has been such a blessing to connect with other like-minded moms :)

  3. says

    Gretchen, it will be up to you and your generation of mamas to inform your peers of the options and choices that there are for birth. I fully expect to see you… protest sign in hand, marching somewhere to bring this great cause to everyone's attention!