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American College of Nurse-Midwives Responds to CBS’s "Whistleblower" Midwifery Story

June 19, 2019
Contact: ACNM Membership & Communications
240.485.1813; [email protected]

The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) strongly disagrees with the mischaracterization of the midwifery profession in an episode of the CBS television program, “Whistleblower,” which originally aired Friday, June 14, 2019.

ACNM is deeply concerned that Friday’s broadcast of “Whistleblower” presented a grossly inaccurate account of how certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) provide care in integrated health care systems. While we are deeply saddened by the losses and suffering of the women and families featured in the program, we believe the manner in which this story was told sends a dangerous message to CBS viewers that could result in unnecessary fear, mistrust and delay in the access of high quality, high value, satisfying maternity care. “Midwifery, as practiced by CNMs and certified midwives (CMs) across the country and CNMs in Indiana, occurs within a health care system that provides for consultation, collaborative management, or referral as indicated by the health status of the woman or newborn,” stated ACNM President Susan Stone, CNM, DNSc, FACNM, FAAN.

Dr. Judy Robinson is only partially correct when she states on the broadcast, “the typical role of a midwife (in my mind) can be a tremendous asset to any practice...in a low-risk, normal population and I think (they) do very well.” Her words further perpetuate a misconception about the midwifery profession, potentially instigating unsubstantiated opinions and misleading stories about midwives’ roles in the health sector. However, the reality is that when obstetrician-gynecologists and CNMs and CMs work well together, we optimize women’s health care.

Multiple studies and research demonstrate that better integration of midwives across the care continuum is essential to addressing nationwide barriers to health care access, improving maternal and neonatal outcomes and reducing maternal mortality. The Lancet published a 2014 series on midwifery in order to explore solutions to address the essential needs of childbearing women and their families globally.[i] The articles in this series make a clear call for the investment in midwives; in truth, midwifery patients report not only high levels of patient satisfaction, but also excellent outcomes and lower costs due to fewer unnecessary, invasive, and expensive interventions.[ii] According to The Lancet, 80% of stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths in both the United States and across the globe could potentially be prevented by midwifery-driven reproductive health efforts and interventions for maternal and newborn health.[iii]

Families must be supported by an integrated system of safe and seamless health care. This should consist of respectful, coordinated care and cooperation among all health care providers as indicated by the health status of the pregnant person or newborn. ACNM staunchly believes all maternity care clinicians should be working together to the full extent of their education, training, and experience to create integrated systems of maternal health care throughout the United States. Health care is most effective when it is provided in a system that facilitates communication across care settings and among clinicians. Obstetrician-gynecologists and CNMs and CMs are experts in their respective fields of practice and are educated, trained, and licensed independent clinicians who should come together to meet the needs of their patients accordingly.

Health care organizations, perinatal care providers, policymakers, regulators, and other stakeholders must collaborate on developing systems that reinforce safety and that comprehensively meet the maternal health care needs of women and families. The voices and stories within all communities must be the foundation on which these systems are constructed. There exists a professional and ethical responsibility to make the options for birthing families as safe as possible through sustained efforts to build an integrated system of respectful, comprehensive maternity care throughout the United States.

ACNM remains firm in its commitment to advance clinical excellence in midwifery and optimal outcomes for all families.

[i] https://www.thelancet.com/series/midwifery

[ii] http://www.midwife.org/acnm/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000004184/Midwifery-Evidence-Based-Practice-March-2013.pdf

[iii] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60790-X/fulltext

About ACNM

With 6500 members, ACNM is the professional association that represents certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and certified midwives (CMs) in the United States. ACNM promotes excellence in midwifery education, clinical practice, and research. With roots dating to 1929, our members are primary care providers for women throughout the lifespan, with a special emphasis on pregnancy, childbirth, and gynecologic and reproductive health. ACNM provides research, administers and promotes continuing education programs, establishes education and clinical practice standards, and creates liaisons with state and federal agencies and members of Congress to increase the visibility and recognition of midwifery care.

American College of Nurse-Midwives
409 12th St SW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20024-2188
Phone: 240.485.1800
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