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Keywords:

  • health policy;
  • midwifery workforce;
  • vulnerable populations

Introduction: Data on attendance at birth by midwives in the United States have been available on the national level since 1989. Rates of certified nurse-midwife (CNM)–attended births more than doubled between 1989 (3.3% of all births) and 2002 (7.7%) and have remained steady since. This article examines trends in midwife-attended births from 1989 to 2009.

Methods: The data in this report are based on records gathered as part of the US National Standard Certificate of Live Birth from a public use Web site, Vital Stats (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/VitalStats.htm), that allows users to create and download specialized tables.

Results: Between 2007 and 2009, the proportion of all births attended by CNMs increased by 4% from 7.3% of all births to 7.6% and a total of 313,516. This represents a decline in total births attended by CNMs from 2008 but a higher proportion of all births because total US births dropped at a faster rate. The proportion of vaginal births attended by CNMs reached an all-time high of 11.4% in 2009. There were strong regional patterns to the distribution of CNM-attended births. Births attended by “other midwives” rose to 21,787 or 0.5% of all US births, and the total proportion of all births attended by midwives reached an all-time high of 8.1%. The race/ethnicity of mothers attended by CNMs has shifted over the years. In 1990, CNMs attended a disproportionately high number of births to non-white mothers, whereas in 2009, the profile of CNM births mirrors the national distribution in race/ethnicity.

Discussion: Midwife-attended births in the United States are increasing. The geographic patterns in the distribution of midwife-attended births warrant further study.